Indigenous Peoples’ Day grapples with history

Columbus Day glorifies an ugly past, Native American groups say



Indigenous Peoples’ Day has become an increasingly popular celebration as an alternative to Columbus Day in places like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and many other cities and college campuses.

ISAAC SEMMLER, Evergreen reporter

It’s time to say goodbye to Columbus Day and start celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

That’s the message the Native American clubs on campus are advocating.

This celebration, also known as Native American Day, is an alternative to the U.S. federal holiday recognizing Christopher Columbus, who is credited with accidentally discovering America and the New World on his expedition in 1492.

It’s important to recognize that Columbus is attributed with killing and enslaving indigenous people and he should not be celebrated, said Jaissa Grunlose, a member of the Native American Women’s Association (NAWA) and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

Since its first official celebration in 1990, cities across America have been adopting Indigenous Peoples’ Day including Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix and more.

Grunlose said she thinks more people should celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an alternative to Thanksgiving.

“The key takeaway for me on Indigenous Peoples’ Day is I feel it’s a day everyone as a whole should be acknowledging Native Americans,” she said. “It’s important to honor all indigenous people past, present and future.”

With this holiday gaining more national attention, Grunlose said future generations have a lot to look forward to.

“I think kids today are lucky to see that more people are recognizing this and taking a stand against Columbus Day because to my people that holiday is basically a stab in the back,” she said.

The holiday is very special to the Native American clubs on campus, she said.

“It’s very historical and exciting to see this day getting more recognition,” said Kerah Iyall, a member of the Ku-Ah-Mah Native American Club.

She said she feels strongly that the U.S. is in a time where more people can and should be taking action to raise awareness of Native American Day.

“Native Americans are treated like we’re only in the history books but in reality, a lot of us are still out here and we want people to be mindful of that,” Iyall said.

Though they work toward change throughout the school year, today is a lively and celebratory time for them, she said.

Chantel Hill, another member of the club, said this is a special day, but it’s also a chance for people to get together and have a great time.

“You know it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “We have various activities. We’re putting up a tipi and we are very pleased to see WSU taking initiative to get us recognized.”

Several Native American clubs including Ku-Ah-Mah and NAWA are hosting an Indigenous Peoples’ Day events with activities, games and food from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday at Hillside Cafe. All WSU students are welcome to attend. They will also be tabling on the Glenn Terrell Friendship until 3 p.m. today.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct time and place of the event today.