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How to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in Phoenix

Written by May Phan Category: Culture Issue: October 2017
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Logo by Jared Oxdx Yazzie, via Facebook.

Most children learn about Christopher Columbus in grade school as the brave guy who “discovered” the Americas and brought exotic spices to the new world. He sailed the ocean blue in 1492, as the saying goes. A year later, he would also land on the island that is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic, enslave the natives, and bring European diseases that would reduce the population from 8 million to 22,000, according to Indians Are Us?: Culture and Genocide in Native North America by Ward Churchill.

That doesn’t flow off the tongue as well, though.

Many do not learn about Columbus’s role in propagating European slave practices and the suffering of indigenous populations under his policies until later in life, and the details aren’t pretty.

Native American activist groups have long called for an end to Columbus Day, a national holiday since 1937 commemorating Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on the second Monday of October. Since 1992, cities across the United States have gradually replaced the Eurocentric Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day as an act of solidarity with Native populations. This week, Los Angeles County passed a motion to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day by 2019.

In 2016, Phoenix became the largest city to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day, though the action by city council did not create an official holiday, nor did it replace Columbus Day, which is not a city holiday in Phoenix.

Here’s what local activists and allies alike are doing to show their support for Native recognition this year:

Indigenous Peoples Day Arizona 2017
The Puente Human Rights Movement leads this third annual celebration featuring local community organizing groups like Indigenous Vision and the American Indian Council. Meet artists, poets and speakers fighting for greater recognition of indigenous cultures.
Free. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Puente Human Rights Movement, 1937 W Adams St., Phoenix, 602-252-1283, idpaz.wordpress.com.

Indigenous Peoples Day at the Heard
The Heard Museum celebrates the power of indigenous voices and the preservation of tribal language through food, dance, dialogue and more. Visitors are welcome to make clay pinch pots and play a video game developed in collaboration with the Iñupiat, a Native Alaskan people.
Free. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Heard Museum, 2301 N Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-8840, heard.org.

Tucson Indigenous Peoples Day Block Party
Enjoy live performances, food and dialogue about Native rights with Indigenous Alliance Without Borders.
Free. 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Global Justice Center, 225 E. 26th St., Tucson, 202-540-8336, afgj.org.