WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, October 12, NOW is proud to continue to take part in the national movement to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day and to reject the racist history of the Columbus Day observance. To continue to honor the legacy of a man who stole sacred and ancestral land from Indigenous people and caused centuries of colonization and genocide is an act of violence against Native Americans. Instead, we must utilize this day to reflect on the violent history of the United States, celebrate Native people’s resistance, and vow to engage in activism that uplifts Native women’s voices and cultures.
We must acknowledge that Indigenous people are still dealing with the ramifications of violence, colonization, and oppression to this day. Earlier this month, we observed Native Women’s Equal Pay Day, acknowledging the fact that Native women today are still making $0.58 or less to every dollar a white man makes. The effects of the Native women’s gender pay gap runs deep, but perhaps one of the most obvious and alarming outcomes of the United States’ continuous de-valuing of Native women’s lives is the violence they face, often at the hands of men outside their tribal communities. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis has resulted in the disappearance or death of over 330 Native women and girls since 2010 alone. And although Congress has recently passed Savanna’s Act in an attempt to aid this crisis, there is still much work to be done.
Additionally, we recognize the current devastating impact COVID-19 has on Native and Indigenous people across the United States. The United States’ response to the situation is extremely telling of the ways in which a history of oppression is still having an impact today. For example, the Navajo Nation faced one of the worst outbreaks of the pandemic in the country, with healthcare services provided to tribal communities incredibly underfunded by Health and Human Services. This, coupled with a lack of additional aid from the US government and the fact that the Navajo Nation is already what some describe as a “food desert,” with 44 percent of residents beneath the poverty line, resulted in an infection rate well above that of New York and other COVID hotspots, and at least 526 needless deaths.
NOW believes we must engage in activism that aims to uplift the voices and cultures of Native and Indigenous women and people as a whole. To mobilize for a national consciousness that celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day each year rather than the memory of a violent colonizer is a great start. But we must also consider what we are actively doing to dismantle centuries of oppression that are still impacting Indigenous people all year round and acknowledge the fact that there are still reparations to be paid.