Indigenous People’s Day 2019 – Students’ Thoughts

Every year, more cities and states pass orders to formally recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD) on the second Monday of October as opposed to the federally observed Columbus Day. We asked some of our students their thoughts on this topic. These are the answers we received. Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

Our 12 students who took the “Federal Advocacy for the Tribal Client” class in Washington, D.C., also shared their thoughts in an Instagram takeover. Check out our highlight @ilpatasu

Q: Does your hometown celebrate IPD? If not, what is it like coming to a city where it is celebrated?

Dylan West: Oklahoma recently adopted a law celebrating Native American Day on the second Monday of October, the same date as Christopher Columbus Day. Even before the official state recognition of this holiday on the same date as Columbus Day, however, celebration and recognition of Indigenous People’s on this day was already prevalent.

Taylor Norman: My hometown, Norman, Oklahoma, adopted a resolution to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day back in 2017 and since then, the festivities have grown immensely!

Cole Bauman: I’m from a small town in a rural area of Wisconsin, and I’ve never seen or known of any celebration of Indigenous People’s Day. However, my tribe is in Wisconsin and I know the government shuts down for the day. I think that it’s great that a large metropolitan city like Phoenix is making that change from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. I think more large cities should do that same.*

Q: Wisconsin just officially recognized IPD state-wide yesterday, what are your thoughts on that?

Cole Bauman: I’m not from Wisconsin but my family on my mother’s side lives on the Red Cliff Reservation in Wisconsin. I was very happy to see Governor [Tony] Evers issue Executive Order #50 recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It’s encouraging to see the Wisconsin government take steps to explicitly recognize the sovereignty of my tribe and other tribes in Wisconsin. It’s equally important to see Wisconsin recognize the efforts of groups such as the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council to promote the success of tribes and their members. 

Q; More and more cities and states are changing to celebrate IPD rather than Columbus Day, why do you think this is important?

Cole Bauman: Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an effort to bring Indigenous representation to the second Monday in October in part by celebrating the history, culture, and triumphs of Native Americans, and these celebrations help create a more truthful representation of the relationship between Indigenous people, Christopher Columbus, and his colonial contemporaries. The celebration of Columbus Day, and its continued existence as a federal holiday, is problematic because it is, at its core, a misrepresentation of history. In my opinion, the more we, as citizens of the United States, are able to be truthful about the people we celebrate and the events that influenced the formation of our country, the more capable we will be of solving the problems facing Americans today.

Dylan West: It’s important to recognize the full story involved in the “discovery” of America in 1492. Recognizing the impact that Columbus’ voyage had on the native peoples of the new world through the celebration of Indigenous people’s day allows others to reflect on the full story of this world-changing event.

Taylor Norman: Personally, I’ve spent the past few years between New York and London and even in those places I have seen the positive effects of switching from Columbus Day to IPD. Not only are we seeing massive institutions begin to question past practice in regard to Indigenous people, but we are also beginning to see Indigenous people being celebrated by communities outside of our own. I cannot stress how important this is on so many levels– physically, mentally, and educationally speaking. Things are not perfect and won’t be for a while, but tangible progress is being made. 

Q: Why are you proud to be Indigenous?

Cole Bauman: I’m proud to be Indigenous because at times of difficulty, I can find strength by reflecting on the actions of my family members and the history of my tribe in the face of far greater adversity.  Congratulations to Wisconsin for celebrating Indigenous people and standing with the proud Indigenous people of this country who celebrate the second Monday of October as their day.

Dylan West: I am proud to be Indigenous because of the unique heritage it bestows. While every tribe’s history differs, the common themes of overcoming adversity, enduring hardship, and learning to thrive in spite of obstacles run through the heritage of every Indigenous person. This heritage inspires each generation to honor those that went before them, and build a brighter future for the generations to come.

Taylor Norman: I am proud to be Indigenous because it means I am connected. Even as one whose family is working diligently to regain much of the knowledge we have lost, I know that I have relatives from all different Nations I can look to for help, guidance, and inspiration. But I also try my best to contribute and offer what I can back to the community– this is why I am at the law school. This collective effort is beautiful to witness and while our people are all so different, we have been able to rise up and work toward brighter futures for the next generation.  

*paraphrased from a phone call