Let’s Celebrate Indigenous People

Road sign reading Little Patuxent Parkway. All over Columbia, not to mention America, there are references to Native Americans in the names of roads, landmarks, cities, and more. “Patuxent” is an Algonquian word, as well as “Chesapeake” in Chesapeake Bay. Additionally, there are states with Native American names, such as Oklahoma, which comes from the Choctaw language. (Yasmin Roach)

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. In 1492, the land that is now known as Howard County was occupied by various Native American tribes. And in the United States today, one of these is celebrated, and the other is sidelined. 

The second Monday of October marks the federal holiday of Columbus Day, but it also marks the counter-celebration of Indigenous People’s Day. Indigenous People’s Day is a recognition of the history and importance of Native Americans, as well as a refusal to celebrate European colonization. Indigenous People’s Day is a day to recognize that Americans deserve a better hero than Columbus. 

Wilde Lake is a school where 76.2% of the population can trace their ancestry back to people who were impacted violently by European colonization. By celebrating Indigenous people and refusing to celebrate the colonizers who harmed our people, we honor the experiences and heritages of every student. 

Although it is meant to celebrate Indigenous Americans, the holiday should also hold significance to anyone with ties to colonized peoples, no matter where they are from. It’s also important to acknowledge the people whose stolen land we live on and whose exploitation we ultimately benefit from. 

As an Egyptian, Indigenous issues are personal to me. My people’s land was occupied by Europeans, our resources, artifacts, and power was taken from us, and we are still suffering from that to this day. We deserve reparations, and yet we have gotten so little in return.

European colonization annihilated Indigenous populations around the globe, and European settlers pushed natives off their ancestral lands with little to no reparations. The Susquehannocks who were in Howard County, for example, signed a treaty in 1652 with the state of Maryland, giving away much of their territory in exchange for an alliance after a conflict over the land driven by colonists. After years of being ravaged by war and disease, the Susquehannocks merged with the Iroquois Nation in New York. Like many other American tribes post-Columbus, they no longer exist today.

Indigenous People’s Day is a day to recognize that Americans deserve a better hero than Columbus. 

So we should not be celebrating Columbus Day, a moment of pain and horror for Indigenous people. Instead, we should be celebrating Native Americans and listening to their voices, which have been violently muted for so long. Native Americans suffer a unique set of difficulties, not the least being getting their voices into the mainstream in order to speak out on their issues themselves.

The effects of colonialism don’t lie in the past. Recent census data shows that Native Americans in the United States are more than twice as likely to be living in poverty as anyone else, with the highest rate of poverty in the nation. According to the Mayo Clinic, Native Americans are more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than any other group and have a higher death rate as well. These are only a few of the many inequalities Natives face. And yet, these differences are rarely talked about, and the impact of European colonialism is largely ignored by mainstream American society. 

The impact of colonialism and the ideologies that target Indigenous people also hurt other groups in similar ways. In contrast, the drive to amplify the voice of one group – here, Indigenous Americans – can open the door for other groups. For that reason, it’s important to show solidarity with the Indigenous movement because, united, we are stronger. 

You can do this by uplifting and listening to the voices of Indigenous Americans in any way you can because, for too long, they have been sidelined and ignored. There are many opportunities to do so; Howard County officially recognized Indigenous People’s Day in 2020 and has held various events since then in acknowledgment of that day. Additionally, the Internet holds a plethora of information on various issues coming directly from Natives. Whatever you choose to do on October 10, let it be a day of remembrance and celebration of the people whose land we live on.