California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation Monday declaring Oct. 12, 2020 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the state.
The proclamation stated that the purpose of the day was to celebrate California’s Indigenous people who have “thrived in the face of unimaginable challenges” and have influenced the state’s history and present. This was the second year in a row Newsom proclaimed Oct. 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day.
Additionally, the proclamation suggested Californians take time to celebrate Indigenous people “rather than the forces that tried, and failed, to eradicate them,” and reflect on how Native Americans have impacted California.
“[Indigenous Peoples’ Day is] an opportunity for all of us to recognize the resilience and persistence (and resistance) of indigenous peoples in California,” said John Dougherty, a Native American studies lecturer at UC Berkeley, in an email. “It might also help shine a light on the ongoing challenges faced by indigenous communities, as well as the transcendent achievements of tribal communities in exercising sovereignty and self-determination.”
As the pandemic and wildfires continue to affect California, the proclamation acknowledged the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous people and said many have been working on the “front lines” as farmworkers and medical personnel. Indigenous people have also fought fires and shared “traditional ecological knowledges” to prevent future wildfires, the proclamation adds.
Dougherty said in the email that it is becoming “increasingly antiquated” to continue to celebrate the holiday named Columbus Day, as there is “growing recognition of the generations of terror and trauma” caused by European settlement in the United States.
Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples Day Committee commemorated the day with its 28th annual powwow, held via Zoom this year, according to the Berkeley Indigenous Peoples Day website.
According to Gino Barichello, who serves on the committee and was a coordinator of the event until 2019, the powwow was “beautiful.” The event was partially live and partially prerecorded, featuring drumming, dancing and historical storytelling.
In 1992, the city of Berkeley became the first in the United States to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day due to the efforts of Indigenous activist groups and widespread support from the community, according to the Berkeley Indigenous Peoples Day website.
Several cities and states across the country have adopted the change, and Indigenous Peoples’ Day is “gaining momentum and growing into a national movement,” archives from the Berkeley Indigenous Peoples Day website stated.
Barichello said he hopes there will be a statewide and, eventually, nationwide referendum to make Indigenous Peoples’ Day an official holiday.
“If Indigenous Peoples’ Day can be declared a national holiday, hopefully that would be an opportunity to strike up conversations and identify the specific needs in Native communities throughout California and the rest of the United States,” Barichello said.