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Indigenous Peoples’ Day commemoration gaining momentum across churches

Dancers perform at the Native American Heritage Month opening ceremony in 2016 at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. Photo/Bureau of Indian Affairs

Episcopal dioceses and congregations are holding services and celebrations marking Indigenous Peoples’ Day as part of a nationwide movement to re-evaluate  Columbus Day, the October federal holiday honoring the Italian explorer that falls this year on Oct. 10.

This will be the first Indigenous Peoples’ Day since the Episcopal Church registered its support for the movement, reports Episcopal News Service. At its July meeting in Baltimore, the 80th General Convention passed a resolution specifically calling on churches and dioceses to designate a day honoring Native Americans and to refer to Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“Observance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day would serve as a celebration and a remembrance of the Indigenous peoples who have for thousands of generations safeguarded the land, and who, in the face of cultural genocide, preserved their languages, traditions, stories, and ceremonies for future generations,” the resolution said.

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The Native American International Caucus, which advocates for Native Americans both inside and outside of the United Methodist Church, is calling on lawmakers to abandon the celebration of Columbus Day.

“The violence and theft inflicted by Christopher Columbus and European occupation of the land, including the enslavement, genocide, dislocation and relocation of Native people, perpetuates an unjust system of capital accumulation at the expense of generations of Native lives,” the caucus said in a news release.

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Columbus Day itself, while commemorating the explorer, was established as a reaction to bigotry and violence. The holiday “was created by President [Benjamin] Harrison in 1892 in response to the anti-Italian motivated lynching of 11 Italian Americans in New Orleans in 1891. During World War II, Italian Americans were even targeted as enemy aliens,” noted President Biden’s proclamation of Columbus Day, an annual proclamation mandated by Congress.

The proclamation is here

President Biden’s proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is here

November is designated Native American Heritage Month by the federal government. The Episcopal Indigenous Ministries Office and the United Thank Offering invite all to begin the month on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. Eastern time with a webinar designed to learn about what it means to be the Beloved Community from an Indigenous perspective.

Panelists will discuss their ministries, which help to reconnect Indigenous practices within Indigenous communities or those which restore Indigenous practices on lands where Indigenous people were forcibly dislocated.

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