PHOENIX- Indigenous Peoples Day marks an important day of celebration and remembrance of the histories, cultures and resiliency of the people who comprise the 573 tribal nations who live today within the United States. This comes during a pivotal year with President Joe Biden becoming the first president to issue a proclamation to mark Indigenous Peoples Day. This historic milestone is a culmination of the efforts of many indigenous leaders, including Senator and member of the Navajo Nation, Jamescita Peshlakai, who launched an effort to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous People’s Day. Senator Peshlakai has also partnered with the nonprofit Indigenous Peoples' Initiative (IPI) as well as Congresswoman Norma Torres of California to sponsor the bill on the federal level. The members of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus at the Arizona State Legislature released the following statements on the celebration.
Senator Jamescita Peshlakai (D-Cameron) “Indigenous Peoples Day is about taking back our narrative. Acknowledging our existence and truth. We are here to stay forever, upon our sacred homelands. Thank you President Biden for a first ever Proclamation. Also, to Arizona’s Indigenous People’s Initiative for their local, state and national work to create a federal Indigenous People’s Day”.
Representative Jennifer Jermaine (D-Chandler) "My family is spending Indigenous Peoples Day celebrating our Ojibwe culture and learning about other indigenous cultures here in Arizona. We are honoring the original inhabitants of this land and remembering the resilience of our ancestors."
Senator Victoria Steele (D-Tucson) “It’s been a long time coming. For centuries, U.S. policies have deliberately attempted to kill-off or assimilate and displace Indigenous peoples. We are grateful to President Biden, the first sitting president to issue a presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day. As Americans we have an obligation to know the full history of our country. Particularly here in Arizona where everywhere we walk, we are treading on Indigenous lands. There are some 6.8 million Indigenous People in this country who are very much alive and to finally celebrate our culture and the enormous contributions of Native People to this country is a recognition that is long overdue. I am so glad that this finally happened in my lifetime.”
Representative Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren (D-Red Mesa) “Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day! Today, we recognize and correct the misguided narrative that Christopher Columbus 'discovered' America, which forgets that Indigenous people have been here since time immemorial and contributes to the erasure of Native people in today’s society. Today, we honor and celebrate our Native heritage, culture, and history. Along with this celebration, we must also recognize the many issues Native communities continue to face including the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, and the recent discovery of thousands of children’s bodies found at Indian boarding schools across this country and Canada. Ahé’héé.”
Senator Sally Ann Gonzales (D-Tucson) “The story of Indigenous peoples’ in North America, past and present, is often forgotten, invisible or ignored. Indigenous Peoples have, and continue to make, important contributions that have shaped and continue to shape this country. Columbus Day does not bring communities together, it celebrates the attempted genocide, destruction, and erasure of Indigenous communities. It is for this reason I support celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day in lieu of Columbus Day.”
Representative Myron Tsosie (D-Chinle)
"Indigenous Peoples Day is critically important moment to celebrate and honor the history and accomplishments of Native People here in Arizona and across the United States. Seeing a Presidential proclamation to mark this day is long overdue, but a welcome moment in our continued fight to ensure our Indigenous communities have a voice and are heard."