State Watch

Arizona, Virginia observe Indigenous Peoples Day for first time

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A record number of states and municipalities on Monday are celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, as more states shy away from observing Columbus Day.

Arizona and Virginia observed Indigenous Peoples Day — the second Monday in October — for the first time this year, joining over a dozen other states and Washington, D.C.

In recent years, support for celebrating the histories and cultures of Native Americans instead of Christopher Columbus has increased steadily, with many arguing that his brutal treatment of Indigenous people should not be glorified.

The idea for Indigenous Peoples Day was first introduced in 1977 at a United Nations conference. In 1989, South Dakota was the first state to formally designate the day as something other than Columbus Day, celebrating it as Native American Day.

Indigenous Peoples Day is now observed at least 14 states and D.C., as well as more than 130 cities.

The new commemorations in Arizona and Virginia were established through gubernatorial proclamations from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

This year’s observation follows a tumultuous summer of nationwide protests demanding the end to systemic racism and police brutality.

Portland, Ore. — where those protests have at times escalated into violence — held a demonstration billed as “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage” over the weekend. Protesters marched around the city on Sunday night, eventually toppling the statues of former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln.

President Trump, whose administration sent federal agents to cities like Portland during the height of unrest over the summer, lashed out at the protesters on Twitter by saying: “Put these animals in jail, now. The Radical Left only knows how to take advantage of very dumb ‘leadership’ fools.”

“These are [Joe] Biden fools. ANTIFA RADICALS. Get them FBI, and get them now!” he added.

In a Columbus Day proclamation, Trump did not mention Indigenous Peoples Day by name, but stated, “[s]adly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy. These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions.”

Columbus Day has been a federal holiday since 1971. Officially recognized by Congress, federal holidays usually prompt the temporary closure of nonessential government offices, though states can decide whether to recognize the holiday.

Progressive congressional lawmakers voiced their support for the country’s Native American communities on Monday.

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a reminder of the work we must do to begin repairing the harm and trauma our country continues to cause Native and Indigenous people,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted.

“It’s more important than ever to reaffirm our commitments to Native communities—fulfilling trust and treaty obligations, protecting Tribal sovereignty and self-determination, and empowering Indigenous peoples to build strong communities and bright futures,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a tweet.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has steadily increased his lead over Trump nationally and in key swing states, also voiced his support for Indigenous Peoples Day.

“Our nation has never lived up to our full promise of equality for all — especially not when it comes to the rights of the indigenous people who were here long before ships arrived from Europe,” the former vice president said. “Today, we are seeing again the full consequences of the inequity that has long held back Tribal Nations as this pandemic tears through Native communities at an alarming and disproportionate rate. We must not allow this unfulfilled promise to continue to perpetuate unequal outcomes for yet another generation of our Native youth.”

Tags Arizona Columbus Day Donald Trump Doug Ducey Elizabeth Warren federal holiday Ilhan Omar Indigenous Peoples' Day Joe Biden Oregon Portland Virginia

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