The debate over whether Columbus Day should instead be celebrated as Indigenous Peoples’ Day started decades ago, but has picked up steam in recent years. Approximately six states and more than 120 localities nationwide have made the switch or decided to recognize both holidays. New York City, with its strong Italian heritage, has not yet jumped on board, but this year the Brooklyn Children’s Museum dedicated the day to teaching the traditions of indigenous cultures.
Indigenous groups inhabited most of the Americas, and New York City was home to American Indian tribes such as the Lenape. “It’s important to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day because it’s our chance to set history right in a way…by sharing the stories of indigenous people,” said Ashley-Simone McKenzie, lead teaching artist at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. “[Indigenous speakers at the event] can actually inform the kids on what is happening today, what happened, and how we can go forward to celebrate these lands and cultures.”
Although neither Miami nor Florida recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Florida International University dedicates an entire week to celebrating indigenous people. On Tuesday the school held a panel entitled “Democratizing the Conversation on Earth Citizenship: Indigenous and Western Perspectives” led by Dr. Thomas Pliske, lecturer emeritus in the department of earth and environment, and Rubi Hurtado, a traditional musician, dancer, researcher and journalist from the Xauxa-Quechua people of Peru.
“My [talk] will be about the things we have in common,” said Pliske. “That was the glue for the beginning of this country and humanity. We have to ask, what do we have in common?”