The 20th anniversary of Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples Day will be celebrated this Saturday in honor of American Indians’ past suffering across the Americas and their cultural resurgence today.
The all-day celebrations on Oct. 13 will be held at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park and will feature an American Indian foods and crafts market and an intertribal dance event known as a Pow-wow.
John Curl, a founding member of the Indigenous Peoples Day Committee, said that though the day is a celebration, it also is a testament to the survival and cultural resurgence of indigenous people in the face of past European-based colonialism and cultural dominance.
“Part of the way into a better future in America is involved with coming to terms with our history, and part of that is coming to a deeper understanding and getting to know native people,” he said.
Berkeley City Council declared Oct. 12 a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People” in 1992, following an Ecuadorian conference attended by indigenous groups two years prior to discuss the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to the Americas.
“The event is a very important part of recognizing and celebrating our culture and our diversity,” said City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.
Curl estimates that there are about 20,000 American Indians in the Bay Area from many different tribes from when the government relocated them from their reservations to work in shipyards in the bay during World War II. Many cities around the Bay Area also have their own Pow-wows and similar versions of celebratory indigenous events.
“The larger message is that Western culture needs to listen to indigenous philosophy and learn how to live in a sustainable way with other people and the environment,” Curl said.