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America is a country rich in culture and different ethnicities and this has to be respected by everyone. For many decades the country has been celebrated for its high levels of equality, and democracy, although it has taken a lot of struggle for the country to achieve its elite position as a superpower and as a modern democracy. Being a modern democracy and a superpower isn’t the most American thing about America but rather the American natives are what make America. It is important that Natives are celebrated just like other Americans thus an American Natives day is imperative.
Native people’s day is a day when American Natives are celebrated and this day honors their history, present and future. This day is to recognize the contribution, impact and resilience of the natives. This holiday is celebrated on the second Monday of October, which originally was Columbus day. Most of the states in the country decided to do away with Columbus Day and replace it with Natives day. This essay seeks to discuss why it is important to celebrate natives’ day.
Columbus Day was first celebrated in the United States in 1792 in New York city.This holiday originated from an annual celebration of Italian-American Heritage in California. President Franklin Roosevelt at the request of the Italians in New York and Knights of Columbus declared the first national observance of Columbus Day (Kehoe, 2017). Three years later the congress made October 12th a national holiday. Later in 1972, the holiday’s official date was made to be the second Monday in October.
However, Columbus Day has been protested by generations of natives throughout the western hemisphere. The protesters often cite how the colonists took over America, From Columbus up to the time the country got independence, at the time millions of Natives lost their lives and the survivors were forcibly assimilated.
In 1977, it was proposed in the United Nations international conference on Discrimination against indigenous population in the Americas that Columbus Day be replaced with Native day. This would be a day that recognizes that native people were the first inhabitants of the Americas including the parts that became the United States of America. This made many states in the country rethink history. Most of the states have since replaced Columbus Day with natives day. This movement gained popularity and spread to cities and towns across the United States. South Dakota was the first state to rename Columbus Day in 1990. Hawaii also changed its name to Discover’s day to honor the Polynesian navigators who settled in the island. As years go by, more states Join the movement to replace the day meant to honor Columbus’ voyage.
Native’s day celebrations starting out a as counter celebration only shows the little importance that people in power have attributed to this harsh historical injustice. Several States including the county of Los Angeles in California commemorate Indigenous day as opposed to Columbus Day. Celebrating Native’s day basically involves appreciating the culture and contribution of Indian Americans.
Indian American way of life has immensely influenced different cultures across the globe. Just till recently, there was little or no acknowledgement and appreciation of the contributions of native peoples, despite giving insights to immigrants on various disciplines such as Science, mathematics, Agricultural processing techniques and technology , clothing materials and styles , art and architecture, politics and social ideology , transportation technology, Medicine, sports and games and even Medicine. The few centuries that followed (after the initial contact in the early fourteen hundreds), had a major role to play in denying and downplaying these vast contributions to society. This is despite such ideas becoming part of the fabric of the American life.
So as to appreciate the value of Native’s day, we must understand the value of the role played by Indian Americans in shaping European culture. Why is Natives day important? because we get to honor and celebrate the resilience of Indian Americans. Some notable contributions are explained as follows.
In Politics and Governance, Native American perceptions on government and other social institutions have been widely adopted by The United States government and The American society at large. The fundamentals of democracy draw their roots from Native American decision making process (Kurien, 2016). Which advocated that a governing authority should serve all people equally. During the founding times of The United States, the Iroquois confederacy of upstate New York comprised of a representation of six tribes. Benjamin Franklin together with other founding fathers took notes from the ‘Iroquois’ system of government when planning for the Union which later become the United States of America.
Indian American ideas of identity are also present in the United States Constitution. Such ideas include; Freedom being a natural right, that the government should run in a system of check and balances, where everything is accounted for, and that leaders are servants of the people and they could be done away with through a process of impeachment and military and civil powers are best divided.
A vast amount of Indian American Languages have significantly contributed to Modern English and other international Languages. English words such as raccoon, moose and moccasin are traditionally Native American words. Cities such as Illinois, Arkansas, Minnesota Lakes such as Minnetonka, rivers such as the Mississippi reveal the significance of the Indian American language. Indian sign language became the International sign language for deaf people. The Indian language played a huge role during world war two as enemies of the allies never decoded their messages.
In medicine, over 200 medicinal plant species that are listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia are pre-Columbia discovered. Just to mention a few products, they include, Novocain, quinine Aspirin and Astringents. In the field of nursing, holistic care has been adopted from the Indian society in the effective treatment of patients. This approach emphasizes on the emotional, spiritual and physical needs of the patient.
Native American Ideas seem also to permeate General Science. The Indian belief systems together with the ecological science teach that that life is interdependent and interrelated. This phenomena is expressed through oral traditions and conservation practices of the Indian communities. They also contributed in highly accurate Mathematical Calendars. The introduction of the zero concept in Mathematics is also attributed to Natives.
Indian American foods play a vital role in ensuring the world’s supply. Early Native agrarian laid the foundation for farming of several types of maize, species of beans, hundreds of potato variety, pumpkins tomatoes and peppers (Bigelow, 2016). These foods went on to create a culinary revolution all around the world. Popular snack foods developed from Native American’s include tomatoes used in Italian pizza lasagna and spaghetti. By the time of European contact most research on wild plants was done and they domesticated plants that were useful.The Sports and games field was not spared by Indian inventions. The rubber ball inventions gave rise to games such as lacrosse. Games such as field and Ice hockey, football and soccer have history in Native American culture.
In clothing and design, the plant fiber cotton became a humongous contribution around the world. Although cotton was being grown in India and some parts of the near east, the quality was way below the Indian American cotton which grew in long strands and was almost as fine as silk. As beaver hats took fashion across Europe, Minnesota and other Indian American locations with large endowment of furry animals. The geometric patterns of Indian attire and art have found their way into the everyday lives of Americans, these include items such as handbags sweaters and belts.
Native Americans have been resilient during social political oppression, in 1838 for example, the federal government began to force Indian Americans off their land as they were seen as a threat to peace while other Americans coveted their fertile lands. They were moved 800 miles northwards of the home into present day Oklahoma. This was forcefully done by the army through the harsh winter weather. About four thousand Cherokees died out of the fifteen thousand that were moving. This was mainly due to disease and starvation. A government that valued and upheld the constitution clearly showed that these rules don’t apply to everyone. Around 1907, Indian nations disappeared as the government reclaimed the land that was previously allocated to them. Landless they remain yet, they are the original descendants of the land.
The community has had to endure different kinds of oppression by the government. Despite their home being invaded and being forced on to reservations. It is a shame that the government quickly dispenses of such a productive and impactful people of the society. These are historical injustices that have crippled the growth and development of Native American populations. Native’s day is important as it makes us remember our past atrocities against the native people (Bigelow, 2016).
Columbus day to Native Americans has been hurtful to Indian Americans. It sums up five hundred year violent history of European colonial occupation and oppression, opening up existing wounds which still run deep. The methods that Columbus and his people used in the initial transactions with Indians would never be forgotten which included raping; pillaging and setting in motion a genocide of people that were original inhabitants. Thus is not something people would like to celebrate.
It is true that Italian Americans celebrate their heritage on Columbus day, but surely there maybe another way of bestowing honor, aside from invoking deep cut memories of harsh human atrocities. Native’s day is important in appreciating the Indian way of life and its subsequent contributions of to modern society.
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