Monday, October 9, Columbus Day, officially marks an Italian man’s passage across the Atlantic Ocean, an event that kicked off the genocide of New World natives and paved the way for the Atlantic slave trade. To mark the occasion, several hundred people on Randall’s Island in New York had something else in mind. Representatives of around 75 Native American tribes gathered for two days to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Starting on October 8, a large semicircle of tents surrounded a performance area for dancing, singing, playing of instruments, and political expression. Often the views were hostile to the official namesake of the day.
“That statue represents a criminal. He was sent back to Spain in chains,” said Cliff Matias, director of the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, the non-profit that organizes the two-day celebration. “Enough of Columbus Day and on with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
The speakers often referenced the protests around the Keystone XL pipeline, a gasline whose construction was temporarily blocked by protests by native tribes and sympathetic groups.
Another issue commonly referenced was the construction of a $1.4 billion telescope on top of Mauna Kea, a mountain sacred to native Hawaiians. After nearly 10 years of back and forth, Hawaii’s land board sided against activists and approved the construction of a telescope. And so the vying continues.