The struggle for civil rights and economic opportunity is a frequent subject in political debates. However, being recognized as a legitimate member of society or even a citizen of the country that governs you and the land you live on, is still a current fight for many native peoples.
First Nations is a term used in Canada to refer to the indigenous Aboriginal people. Recognizing the many native peoples, their governments, traditions and full participation in the present day fabric of Canadian life. Native peoples throughout the world have pressed the country they happen to live in for civil rights and in some cases human rights. Dred Scott, a black man, in the United States lost his legal quest in the United States Supreme Court (1857), the ruling was that Mr. Scott could not even argue his case because not only were former slaves, but any people of African decent did not have “standing” to even bring the case to court, because blacks weren’t even citizens. Citizenship for Aborigines, natives, in Australia didn’t happen until 1967.
The respect for the Indigenous people has been are hard fought one. The fight continues. One of the cultural resistances in the United States to the recognition of the Native Americans, has been the celebration of Columbus Day. Italian explorer Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492. The commemoration of Columbus Day as a federal holiday began in 1937. Celebrating on October 12, since 1970, as the second Monday in October. This day has become a celebration of pride for people of Italian decent. Another fight includes the use of Native culture and images as mascots or comedic symbols. The belittling of a culture and a people is a tactic used by majority peoples through the ages.
However, the struggle for civil and indeed human rights has created conflicts. The pride associated with Columbus Day for many has overlooked several key points. One of those being that Columbus’ discovery is highly questionable because people were already living in the areas of his “so-called” discovery. More disturbing is the seemingly persistent attempt by many to either ignore the native community, denigrate heritages in order to de-legitimize their very existence.
After the United States Civil War, a series of amendments to the U.S. Constitution (13th, 14th, & 15th) put an end to the citizenship and challenges to legal rights attributed to all citizens in the United States. However, local jurisdictions and states have challenged those constitutional rights. Many majority ethnic citizens have continued to resist full participation or laws to protect rights for many.
As of this post two cities in the United States, Minneapolis and Seattle, have switched Columbus Day to “Indigenous People’s Day” also known as Native American Day. Since the early 1990’s and a United Nations Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in 1977, many places throughout the world have changed their thinking of both Christopher Columbus and the holiday named for him.
In a final note, Seattle, Washington has been inhabited by Native Americans for at least 4000 years. The first Europeans to visit the area, was in the late 1700’s. Furthermore, the name Seattle, is for Chief Sealth (Seattle), a Native American chief of the Duwamish people, the native tribe that originally inhabited the Seattle area. No discovery of Seattle by Europeans was necessary.Your comments to this post are encouraged!