Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Because of the upsurge in COVID cases in Iowa, my friends at the Great Plains Action Society decided not to hold a public gathering this Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Instead, they participated in a guerrilla street art action to push back at the recognition of Columbus Day in Iowa and the nation.

Celebrate Indigenous People’s Day by Abolishing Columbus Day

To celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, we participated in a guerrilla street art action to push back at the recognition of Columbus Day in Iowa and the nation. The art is inspired by the Overpass Light Brigade and utilizes LED lights to spell out movement messaging tackling various issues. The art build and action was led by Qırımlı Frontlines Organizer, Mahmud Fitil. Ronnie James provided on-the-ground support, gathering together an amazing crew of local radicals to help hold the art. The photos were taken by Karla Conrad, a movement photographer well known for her work in Iowa. The following piece to accompany the photos is written by Sikowis Nobiss.

Indigenous People’s day is a time to celebrate Indigenous cultures, practices, and success but it is also a powerful political statement about and against whitewashed history as well as colonial violence. It is observed on the same date as Columbus Day with the goal of ending the celebration of a man that did not, in fact, discover America who was also a rapist, a murderer, and slave trader. Unfortunately, the bulk of declarations and proclamations recognizing Indigenous Peoples in cities, counties, and states across the country do not abolish Columbus Day. For instance, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation last Friday to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which is the first time a sitting US president has commemorated this holiday, but Columbus Day is still a national holiday, which means the nation state still celebrates and upholds colonization, genocide, and slavery. Most federal employees will receive the day off to observe Columbus Day, which is still endorsed by Congress.

The state of Iowa needs to completely abolish Columbus Day and statues uplifting white supremacy that perpetuate hate and whitewash our history. Hate speech alone is not considered a hate crime under Iowa code, however, the state itself should be held to a different standard and barred from entering or perpetuating behavior that undermines a person’s mental well-being, safety, and sense of belonging in this state. Furthermore, the Iowa constitution already protects against discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation, age, race, national origin, and disability. Since Columbus Day and monuments to white supremacy celebrate genocide, land theft, and enslavement, they perpetuate and legitimize discrimination as they make many BIPOC residents unwelcome in public spaces that trigger very real historical traumas.

Sikowis Nobiss , Great Plains Action Society

Photo by Karla Conrad

The following is about Indigenous Peoples’ Day last year. My friend Ronnie James appears below, with the bust of Christopher Columbus (and he’s mentioned above for his role in the guerrilla street art.)


Remarks at Indigenous Peoples Day 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa State Capitol grounds, October 12, 2020, by Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz, American Friends Service Committee

Photos from Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020

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