Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a ‘Movement of Truth-Telling,’ Say Two Indigenous Reporters

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Image credit: Cybelle Codish

Two Michigan indigenous reporters discuss Indigenous Peoples’ Day, what the celebration means to them and the importance of honestly reckoning with American history.

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The second Monday in October is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The holiday has been gaining traction in recent years in response to nationwide acknowledgments of Christopher Columbus, as more Americans have been questioning why they should celebrate Columbus, a man who helped spur waves of genocide against millions of native people.

I am hope made of flesh, their wildest dreams.” - Sierra Clark, Traverse City Record Eagle

President Joe Biden declared October 11 Indigenous People’s Day, becoming the first U.S. president to issue such a proclamation. He joins more than 100 cities and a number of states, including Michigan, in recognizing Indigenous People’s Day.


Listen: Indigenous journalists explore the significance of Indigenous People’s Day.


Guests

Meghanlata Gupta is the founder of Indigenizing the News, a digital news source dedicated to educating non-Native allies about Native nations. She says that Christopher Columbus should not be forgotten, but recognized for the heinous acts he committed, including the genocide he helped facilitate. “We’re not asking to erase Christopher Columbus from history. This is not a movement to erase, but, rather, a movement of truth-telling,” she says. 

Gupta says Americans should take the time to educate themselves about both historical and contemporary stories related to native people. “Look into some of our contemporary struggles, our contemporary experiences because those are happening right now,” she says. “We are fighting for our land back, we are fighting against pipelines.”

Sierra Clark is an indigenous affairs reporter at the Traverse City Record Eagle. She says the federal government choosing to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day alongside Columbus Day is “performative,” but, nonetheless, a positive cultural step. Today, she says there are over 700 tribes across the U.S. that hold diverse cultures, languages and stories, and the holiday should be meant to honor that fact. “Today is really about celebrating the survival of the 500-year plus genocide that Columbus set forth through the doctrine of discovery,” says Clark. 

She says her ancestors fought to ensure that Clark herself is alive today, and she deeply appreciates them for that. “I am hope made of flesh, their wildest dreams,” says Clark. 

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