On Monday, Oct. 14, the inaugural celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day will be held at 6 p.m. in the Crockett Auditorium at the Maysville Community and Technical College.
The event has been organized by the Maysville Commission on Human Rights, with support from the American Indian Movement of Indiana/Kentucky and Maysville Community and Technical College.
The Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration will highlight the history and contributions of indigenous peoples, sometimes called Native Americans. The event is free and open to all, and will feature speakers, John Hubbard, an enrolled member of the Hunkpatina/Yanktonai Dacoutah tribe and former tribal historian and Lance Soto, an enrolled member of the Cocopah Indian Tribe and director of AIM Indiana/Kentucky. Rebecca Jackson and Brad Cox, social studies teachers at Mason County High School, will be recognized for their contributions to education on the history of indigenous peoples.
According to Human Rights Commissioner and MCTC Director of Diversity Millicent Harding-Thomas, “Recognizing the contributions, history, and sacrifices made by the original inhabitants of this continent is long overdue. This one act of restorative justice is important to many communities throughout the United States.”
The Oct. 14 event will mark the city’s first Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration, which replaces Columbus Day. In December 2018, the city commission voted to adopt a resolution expressing “the City of Maysville’s support for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of indigenous people of this land; to celebrate the thriving culture and value that all indigenous peoples add to our city; and urging other businesses, organizations, and public entities to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
Though Christopher Columbus is widely credited with having discovered America, he never set foot on the continental U.S., having landed in the Caribbean. Furthermore, millions of indigenous people were already living on the American continents at that time. The European conquest that followed Columbus’ arrival decimated these populations. When Columbus Day became a national holiday in 1937, this history was not widely understood.
Columbus Day “is no longer a day of national recognition for the European [Columbus] that delivered genocide to two continents and laid the groundwork for the deaths of 10 million human beings in the U.S. alone and the displacement of millions more over five centuries,” said event co-organizer Lance Soto. “It is now a day to recognize and celebrate the survivors, the indigenous people that continue to live, breathe, and contribute to life in the Americas.”
The idea of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day was formally proposed in 1977, at a United Nations Conference. Since then, many communities have formally recognized the holiday. In 1990, South Dakota was the first state to adopt Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Since then, six states and numerous cities have recognized the holiday as an alternative to Columbus Day. In Kentucky alone, Louisville, Richmond, Frankfort, Harrodsburg, Somerset, Prestonsburg, Corbin, Berea – and now Maysville – have all recognized the holiday.