President Joe Biden has declared every October 11th Indigenous Peoples’ Day. That it coincides with Columbus Day, a U.S. federal holiday honoring Christopher Columbus, creates a paradox in public policy to recognize both colonial explorers and the very people they conquer.
A Proclamation on Indigenous Peoples' Day seems to run afoul of former U.S. president's policies on Indian Affairs. It suggests we acknowledge their culture; food, crafts, dance, canons of faith and leadership. Every October 11, federal agencies are now encouraged to recognize native Americans by assisting the nation’s awareness, tolerance and education of the Indigenous Peoples'.
Trail of Tears
From the Age of Discovery onward, catchy sayings like “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492” storied the explorer's arrival in the Americas after which — Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, and the Netherlands — all began to claim the continent as their own. The next 300 years oversaw colonial governor's displace, enslave, and disestablish the Indigenous Peoples. Moreover, they informed American leadership.
In 1779, for example, newly elected President George Washington gave orders to destroy the crops, villages and establishments of the Indigenous Peoples'. He writes to his generals:
The expedition you are appointed to command is to be directed against the hostile tribes of the Six Nations of Indians. The immediate object is the total destruction and devastation of their settlements; the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible; the ruination of their crops now in the ground; and the prevention of their ever planting more.
Fifty years on, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act; calling for the forced removal of 60,000 American Indians from their native villages to Indian Reservations. The Native Americans lobbied the U.S. Congress, created a petition with more than 15,000 signatures, and ultimately took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court who ruled they were a sovereign nation (Worcester v. Georgia 1832).
However, Jackson ignored the Supreme Court’s decision and enforced the Indian Removal Act; forcibly removing them from their villages; incarcerating them in stockades; and forcing them to walk more than 1,000 miles to Indian Reservations. Over 4,000 died in transit, and many are buried in unmarked graves along the Trail of Tears. President Andrew Jackson writes.
By persuasion and force they have been made to retire — from river to river and from mountain to mountain — until some of the tribes have become extinct, and others have left but remnants to preserve for a while their once terrible names.
Population figures for Indigenous Peoples' prior to colonization in 1492 are difficult to establish. Scholars rely on archaeological data and written records from European settlers. However, most leading scholars gravitate toward a figure of 50-100 million or more. According to the U.S. Census, there are approximately 5.2 million full blooded Native Americans in the United States today, collectively representing 1.6% of the U.S. population.
During Britain’s colonization of the Americas, the term “paramount chief” was created by the British Empire. Because the term "chief" was routinely used by many civilized tribes, the term "paramount" was added to distinguish the Native American Indian’s Chief Executive. He was the highest-level political leader of the combined villages and regions throughout North America. The Sachem neither inherited nor claimed the title but was chosen by the combined tribes and villages to lead the nation.
Crazy Horse is remembered for expelling European Colonists, famously killing General Custer, and Red Cloud won the only war with the United States. However, Standing Bear was the first to take their battle to court. He was the first Native American Civil Rights leader; successfully arguing in a U.S. District Court that Native Americans were "persons within the meaning of the law." The harbinger of habeas corpus, Native Americans were judicially granted civil rights in American law from 1879.
While naturalized Native Americans citizens represent a scant 1.6% of the U.S. population, over 70% of their 335 million citizens actually have Native American Indian in their blood. According to genealogical resource, Ancestry, “Native American blood lines are present in 73% of all participants in our Ancestry DNA Studies: Tests for Ethnicity and Genealogy.” It can fairly be said that Native American bloodlines are firmly imprinted into the DNA, identity and culture of America.
The National Museum of the American Indian, a Smithsonian Institution, identifies six themes that came to characterize the Native American’s quest for liberty. They represent a canon of leadership ideals that guide and govern them even now including; recognition of the immanent value of all things, noninterference, and a collectivist decision-making approach.
If cancel culture is defined as being "shunned from society," its patently true the Indigenous Peoples' of the Americas were the first to meet that fate. Free speech may have been the first to go in 1492, though silencing one another in social circles was to become an inevitable way of life for the West.
Beyond instructing public buildings to display the American flag, A Proclamation of Indigenous Peoples' Day is an instrument designed to enable Tribal Nations to govern their own communities. From the utopian "Yankeedom" to the conservative "Greater Appalachia" and "Left Coast," all 11 rival regional cultures in the U.S. can be traced to a single moment; first impression; statement of purpose: a life lesson:
On March 16, 1621 — Samoset, the first Paramount Chief to make contact with the Pilgrims — startled British colonists by walking into Plymouth Colony and greeting them in English with a warm "Welcome."