Monday, October 12, 2015

Indigenous Peoples' Day - Sign This Petition

It is October 12th, federally celebrated as "Columbus Day." But on this blog, in this sphere, it is going to be celebrated as "Indigenous Peoples' Day." Nine cities have already made the name change, and it's time to make it federal

This post will be long, but important. So buckle down, and get reading!

(The apostrophe placement in "Peoples'" is important to note. There is no one indigenous "people" because there are hundreds, if not thousands of individual tribes. It is more accurate to say "peoples" when describing them. Putting them into one group erases their distinct cultures and enacts violence through stereotyping and marginalization.)

Reconsider Columbus Day

*Trigger warning: facts of Native and indigenous peoples' genocide and the brutalities committed against them in the past, by Christopher Columbus specifically, and in the present*

I'm not going to spend much time in this section because this day is a celebration of Native and indigenous people. This day is also a celebration of their past and ongoing resistances. So: one must know why they resist.

Columbus should not be celebrated, and no day should be his namesake. He was, by all accounts (except of those who promote colonial and race-based oppression), a horrific man.

As Native American Netroots asserts in "Christopher Columbus & His Crimes Against Humanity" (please click and read the entire article):
"Greed for gold, capitalistic greed through the potential of wealth through the slave trade, and the religious beliefs of Apocalyptic Christianity were three primary motivations Columbus had for setting sail...."
Christopher Columbus kidnapped Taino people, taking their kindness for weakness. He raped and murdered Native peoples and asked the governor of Hispaniola to cut off the noses and ears of Native peoples resisting slavery.

His journal reveals the satanity of his character, with lines such as: "They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” And: “As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts."

Christopher Columbus, through his attempts at enslaving Native peoples, set up the preemptive framework for the African slave trade. Natives were used to gather gold and if they couldn't find enough, their hands would be cut off or they would be killed.

It is estimated that 100 million (yes, one hundred) Native and indigenous peoples in South, Central, and North America died at the hands of European invaders and diseases.

In modern times:

Brutalities against indigenous peoples have not ended. The stealing and desecrating of Native and indigenous land continues to this day.


These are the facts. I can go on, but I won't. Educate yourselves and understand the brutality that this man enacted upon millions and millions of peoples, being the catalyst for the largest genocide in all of human history, and being the catalyst for ongoing oppression.

*end trigger warning*



I want to take this next section to talk about Popé and how amazing he was, his iconic rope, and his legendary story. I get excited just hearing about him.

From Matthew Martinez and Ohkay Owingeh:
Popé is revered as the leader of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Pueblo scholars refer to him as the one who carried out the first successful American revolution against a foreign colonial power, Spain. Popé (Ripe Pumpkin) was from Ohkay Owingeh (known today as San Juan Pueblo) and, as best can be determined, was born around 1630. Little is known about the upbringing of Popé. Though, there is no reason to believe he did not grow up like any other Pueblo Indian boy of his time who strictly followed the customs of his community. Religion was inextricably woven into the pattern of pueblo life. Young Pueblo boys were taught the ways of being and becoming a young man both in a secular sense and through a religious understanding. 
Popé’s presence was first recorded in 1675 when he and 47 other Pueblo men were prosecuted and indicted in Santa Fe for the alleged practice of sorcery. As a result of the trial, four men were sentenced to hanging. The remaining men were rounded up and publicly condemned to lashings and imprisonment. The Pueblo villages sent a delegation to Santa Fe to protest this treatment and threaten war. Fearful for his life, Governor Juan Francisco de Treviño released the prisoners and allowed them to return home. Upon being released, the Pueblo captives were told to give up their idolatry and iniquitous ways. This was a time of intense hardship for Pueblo people under the Spanish regime. Popé grew up seeing his people forced into the Spanish repartimiento system. Under this system Pueblo people served as slave labor and were required to provide food and supplies to the Spaniards. 
Pueblo scholar Joe Sando writes that the Spaniards constantly harassed religious leaders and that a Tewa kiva was filled with sand so the people could not hold their nightly dances. In Pueblo thought and culture, when religion is suppressed, the natural order of life is disrupted. Suppression of religion, according to Pueblo worldview, means a threat to the livelihood of the people 
It was against this background that Popé and other Tewa war captains began discussing what might be done to rid the country side of the invaders. Several Pueblo leaders gathered in Taos Pueblo to plan the Revolt. Popé emerged as a key organizer. It is suggested that he was an important individual because he had access to the inner religious circles of Taos Pueblo. It took a unique individual to orchestrate the Revolt across two dozen communities who spoke six different languages and were sprawled over a distance of nearly 400 miles - from Taos at one end to Hopi villages at the other. Pueblo people were prohibited from using horses. Moreover, during Spanish rule they were not allowed to use guns of any kind. 
Pueblo people come from a running culture. It is no surprise that Popé and his followers agreed that runners would be sent to each of the pueblos. The runners carried a deerskin strip tied with knots. Each knot represented the number of days remaining before the campaign against the Spanish would begin. Each morning at every pueblo a knot would be untied. When all the knots were untied, the uprising was to begin in all of the pueblos. This plan almost failed because several sympathizers notified the Spanish of the plan. Thus, the revolt began two days early and, on August 10, 1680, the Spanish were caught
by surprise. They retreated to Santa Fe and were eventually overpowered by a large number of Pueblo warriors.

On May 21, 2005, after a long struggle, the unveiling of the Popé statue for the National Statutory Hall took place at Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo). This unveiling was in remembrance of the event that took place in 1680. Popé was the earliest individual to be honored in the collection of the U.S. Capitol. Cliff Fragua (Jemez Pueblo) was the first American Indian artist to sculpt a statue for the Statutory Hall. Popé joins the figure of the late Senator Dennis Chavez as New Mexico’s two contributions to the U.S. Capitol. The addition of Popé to the National Statutory Hall completes the group of 50 individuals chosen to represent the United States.

In the seven and a half foot marble rendition, Popé holds a knotted cord in his left hand, which was used to determine when the Pueblo revolt would begin. He holds a bear fetish in his right hand which symbolizes the center of the Pueblo world and religion. There is a pot behind Popé, which signifies Pueblo culture. The deerskin he is wearing is a symbol of his status. The shell necklace that he is wearing is a reminder of where life begins. Popé wears Pueblo moccasins and his hair is bound in a traditional Pueblo style. On his back are the scars that remain from the whipping he received for his participation and faith in Pueblo ceremonies and religion. Herman Agoyo, San Juan Pueblo, succinctly states the following about the importance of Popé:

“To the Pueblo people here, Popé is our hero. Tribes were on the verge of losing their cultural identity when the Pueblo Revolt brought everything back on track for our people.”
This is just one story. One person, from one tribe, amongst the hundreds and thousands of tribes and millions of Native and indigenous peoples. Queer Natives, women Natives, so many other Natives who haven't been in the spotlight (did you know some Native and indigenous peoples had a Two-Spirit term to identify non-binary peoples in their community? By non-binary, I mean people with genders that can't be described as either male or female). Please take this time and this day, especially, to learn about indigenous history, indigenous peoples, and their stories. Revolt against Columbus in your own minds.

If you are non-Native/indigenous and live on Native/indigenous land, consider what that means, and critically consider what part you (we) have to play in this oppression. How have we benefited? We play a role. Use this knowledge as an incentive for action.


Their stories, their existence, their fight, and their celebration exists to this day, from their protests of Pope Francis's canonization of a genocidal Catholic priest, to their fight for the sovereignty of their lands.

I haven't written about the individual cultures outside of resistance. It is not my place to "share" these cultures, given that I am not Native/indigenous, and given the violence of cultural appropriation that occurs to this day. Those "sexy Pocahontas" costumes you see perpetuate violence against Native peoples. According to Amnesty International:
Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the USA. Some Indigenous women interviewed by Amnesty International said they didn't know anyone in their community who had not experienced sexual violence. Though rape is always an act of violence, there is evidence that Indigenous women are more likely than other women to suffer additional violence at the hands of their attackers. According to the US Department of Justice, in at least 86 per cent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men. (emphasis, mine)
Yea. So if you see your child, your friend, of you wanting to dress up as a Native for Halloween, STOP YOURSELF, STOP THEM. Enact allyship: stop them, and make complaints to any store you see that sell these costumes. The costumes promote the rape of Native women (and Native men aren't doing most of the raping...the fetishization of Native culture and women lead to race-based violence).

That's why I don't want to talk about individual Native and indigenous cultures. These cultures are not mine to share, and sharing them might perpetuate cultural appropriation and violence.

Well, I can't say Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day - yet. Hopefully that day is coming soon. Sign on to this We the People petitionlet's get this name changed. Doing so will lead to educational initiatives in our schools, and in mass media, about Native and indigenous peoples, their histories, and their ongoing movements.

What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments below. And please, sign, share, and spread the petition! If we get 100,000 signatures, we are guaranteed a response from the federal government. 

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