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Day of Indigenous Resistance

Posted on: Monday, October 12, 2009

Keywords: Human Rights Advocacy, Latin America & Caribbean, Indigenous Rights

Today is a day that has embedded itself in the public consciousness of many people living in the US—but too often for the wrong reasons.  Today, school children will be taught about an explorer who “sailed the ocean blue,” but many will be denied the knowledge of the destruction he wreaked upon his arrival.  Parades will be held and people may take the day off work, all the while disregarding the cruelty of celebrating the decimation of Indigenous Peoples.

These are not long-forgotten tragedies, as some might flippantly argue.  Their impact carries on to this day.  Indigenous Peoples continue their generations-long struggle, fighting against unjust laws that force them off their lands and advocating for the preservation of Indigenous cultures and communities.

There have been devastating setbacks in this struggle, such as the massacres of Peruvian Indigenous protesters in June of this year by government forces.  Climate change has already triggered environmental shifts that threaten traditional livelihoods, from floods in Nicaragua to drought in Kenya.  An on-going epidemic of violence threatens the lives and well-being of Indigenous women worldwide.  The list goes on.

But there have also been inspirational victories, such as the passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or powerful Indigenous women’s organizing that demands action on violations of women’s human rights.  Across the globe, the Indigenous Peoples’ rights movement continues to demand that the injustices of yesterday are exposed and confronted today—Indigenous Peoples’ lives continue to depend on it.

We do such a movement a grave injustice when we continue to blindly honor Columbus, perpetuating a historical dishonesty that ignores the price that Indigenous Peoples have paid.

In many places, people are turning an increasingly critical eye on the stories we’ve been told.  In Pennsylvania, one class of fourth-graders put Columbus on trial and sentenced him for his crimes.  The video below, sponsored by the United Confederation of Taino People, asks us to reconsider the mythology we’ve been given.

Take today as an opportunity to learn more about the histories of Indigenous Peoples in this country and elsewhere, and about the global Indigenous Peoples’ rights movement.  These resources can get you started.

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