Story at a glance

  • Vice President Kamala Harris said on Tuesday the U.S. “must not shy away from this shameful past,” and must “shed light” on the explorers who “ushered in a wave of devastation” on Indigenous peoples.
  • Harris made her comments to the National Congress of American Indians, a day after the U.S. celebrated the recently rechristened Indigenous Peoples Day.

Vice President Harris said on Tuesday that the U.S. “must not shy away from this shameful past,” and must “shed light” on the explorers who “ushered in a wave of devastation” on Indigenous peoples. 

Harris made her comments to the National Congress of American Indians, a day after the U.S. celebrated the recently rechristened Indigenous Peoples Day. 

“Since 1934, every October the United States has recognized the voyage of the European explorers who first landed on the shores of the Americas,” she said. “But that is not the whole story. That has never been the whole story.

“Those explorers ushered in a wave of devastation for Tribal nations — perpetrating violence, stealing land, and spreading disease,” she continued.

Harris spoke of the “persistent inequity” that has plagued Native Americans, adding that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated their plight. 

“Native Americans are more likely to live in poverty, to be unemployed, and often struggle to get quality health care and to find affordable housing,” she said. 


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The vice president continued, saying that the Biden administration’s agenda “represents the largest investment in Indian country in our history,” with $31 billion for native communities. Meanwhile, the administration intends to reopen a memo that “gives tribes the power to make decisions about how best to integrate and deliver federal services” within their respective nations, Harris said. 

President Biden on Friday issued the first presidential proclamation marking Indigenous Peoples’ Day, — celebrated alongside Columbus Day — aiming to commemorate the “invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples.”

“We must never forget the centuries-long campaign of violence, displacement, assimilation, and terror wrought upon Native communities and Tribal Nations throughout our country,” Biden wrote. “Today, we acknowledge the significant sacrifices made by Native peoples to this country — and recognize their many ongoing contributions to our Nation.”


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Published on Oct 13, 2021