Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday celebrated in colonized countries to honor Native peoples and commemorate their histories and cultures – while governments and corporations continue to pillage and loot indigenous territories!

In the U.S., Indigenous Peoples’ Day evolved as an alternative to « Invasion Day » – Columbus Day – which celebrated Columbus’ arrival in the New World on October 12th 1492 and the beginning of the colonization of North America. 

Native Americans protested honoring a man who had enabled their genocide and forced assimilation. 

Across North America today, Indigenous struggles against mines and oil pipelines that are projected to run through their communities’ sacred sites or water sources are still ongoing. They call on the government to « Honor the Treaties! and to acknowledge that « Water is Life! » 

Among them are the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), that endangers the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation on the Missouri river.

Line 3 is a proposed pipeline expansion to carry a million barrels of tar sands daily from Canada to Wisconsin. The Canadian company Enbridge, responsible for the largest oil spill on U.S. soil, plans to run the pipeline through the Mississippi River headwaters to Lake Superior, the territory of Anishinaabe peoples.

In Canada, On June 21st, Trudeau stated: « Today, on National Indigenous Peoples Day, we invite all Canadians to learn and celebrate the vibrant and diverse cultures, languages, and beautiful traditions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. We also recognize the important contributions Indigenous peoples have made, and continue to make, to Canada. »

Meanwhile, in Canada, since September 24th and during « Truth and Reconciliation Week », honoring the lost children and survivors of residential schools, Wet’suwet’en have been using a roadblock to prevent GasLink’s plan to install pipe under the river bed of the Morice River, or Wedzin Kwa. 

RCMP officers have visited the site and arrested indigenous protesters.

Indigenous-led resistance to 21 fossil fuel projects in the U.S. and Canada over the past decade has stopped or delayed an amount of greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least one-quarter of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions, according to reports by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International. 

Brazil Celebrates the « Dia do Indio » – « Indigenous People’s Day » on April 19th. Indigenous peoples in Brazil continue to fight for the land rights guaranteed to them in the 1988 Constitution. Over 30 yeas later, most Indigenous lands are not demarcated nor protected from land grabbing, gold mining, logging and encroachment bu agribusiness. 

The right-wing Bolsonaro administration also announced that some previously demarcated Indigenous territories should be more « productive. » This strategy aims to promote the exploitation of mineral reserves and facilitate agribusiness in the protected Amazon region.

According to Sonia Guajajara, the coordinator of Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation (APIB). « Bolsonaro wants to open Indigenous lands to agribusiness activities, mining exploration and real estate speculation. People are afraid for their lives, but we are not going to give up! »

Indigenous lawyers with APIB are arguing a case at Brazil’s Supreme Court to have Indigenous rights to ancestral lands recognized according to the Constitution. After numerous postponements, two votes were cast, one for and one against in August but no new date has been set for the case to proceed – delaying and denying justice.


Satellite images show protected forest in Indigenous lands surrounded by deforestation and devastation.

In Australia, January 26th is a national celebration of the day that New South Wales was established as a colony in 1788. It’s a day of mourning for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, particularly for Stolen Generations survivors.

After four years of discussions, the Daintree forest – the world’s oldest tropical rainforest – has been returned to its Aboriginal custodians in a historic transfer.

Daintree forest is over 180 million years old and has been home to generations of Aboriginal people. The area in the northeastern region of Australia comprises 160,000 hectares (395,000 acres) of land, which have been threatened by climate change, agricultural clearing and logging, despite being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site of rich and unique biodiversity, with over 3,000 plant species, 107 mammals, 368 bird and 113 reptile species since the 1980s.

In handing formal ownership back to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people, the Queensland government recognized, said Environment Minister Scanlon, « one of the world’s oldest living cultures. This agreement recognizes their right to own and manage their Country, to protect their culture. »

Although the transfer is a first for Queensland, Daintree is one of four national parks, a combined area of over 160,000 hectares, to be handed back to indigenous peoples in an agreement with the state government signed this year.

In other parts of Australia, such agreements have already taken place . The Uluru national park in the country’s Northern Territory has been back under the ownership of the Pitjantjatjara people since 1985.


Daintree forest

In North America, the Land Back movement to return culturally and ecologically vital lands back to Indigenous people is growing. Some land is being transferred to tribal groups or is being co-managed with them.

In California, 1,199 acres of redwood forest and prairie was returned to the Esselen tribe. In Maine, the Five Tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy recently reacquired a 150-acre island. Land transfers to tribes with the goal of wildlife management and conservation have taken place in Oregon, New York and other states.

The knowledge of the world’s Indigenous peoples is essential for protecting and restoring the fragile ecosystems of our shared planet. Decolonization is vital to avoiding extinction.

For more details, please read:

« Land for the indigenous people has no commercial value, as in the private sense of civil possession. It is a relationship of identity, which includes spirituality and existence, and it is possible to affirm that there is no indigenous community without land » 

and:

The Genocide of Indigenous Peoples in North America THEN is happening in South America NOW!

About Barbara Crane Navarro - Rainforest Art Project

I'm a French artist living near Paris. From 1968 to 1973 I studied at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, then at the San Francisco Art Institute in San Francisco, California, for my BFA. My work for many decades has been informed and inspired by time spent with indigenous communities. Various study trips devoted to the exploration of techniques and natural pigments took me originally to the Dogon of Mali, West Africa, and subsequently to Yanomami communities in Venezuela and Brazil. Over many years, during the winters, I studied the techniques of traditional Bogolan painting. Hand woven fabric is dyed with boiled bark from the Wolo tree or crushed leaves from other trees, then painted with mud from the Niger river which oxidizes in contact with the dye. Through the Dogon and the Yanomami, my interest in the multiplicity of techniques and supports for aesthetic expression influenced my artistic practice. The voyages to the Amazon Rainforest have informed several series of paintings created while living among the Yanomami. The support used is roughly woven canvas prepared with acrylic medium then textured with a mixture of sand from the river bank and lava. This supple canvas is then rolled and transported on expeditions into the forest. They are then painted using a mixture of acrylic colors and Achiote and Genipap, the vegetal pigments used by the Yanomami for their ritual body paintings and on practical and shamanic implements. My concern for the ongoing devastation of the Amazon Rainforest has inspired my films and installation projects. Since 2005, I've created a perfomance and film project - Fire Sculpture - to bring urgent attention to Rainforest issues. To protest against the continuing destruction, I've publicly set fire to my totemic sculptures. These burning sculptures symbolize the degradation of nature and the annihilation of indigenous cultures that depend on the forest for their survival.
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4 Responses to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday celebrated in colonized countries to honor Native peoples and commemorate their histories and cultures – while governments and corporations continue to pillage and loot indigenous territories!

  1. Pingback: Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday celebrated in colonized countries to honor Native peoples and commemorate their histories and cultures – while governments and corporations continue to pillage and loot indigenous territories! — Barbara Crane Nav

  2. fgsjr2015 says:

    After decades of news consumption, I have found that a disturbingly large number of categorized people, however precious their lives, can be considered thus treated as though disposable, even to an otherwise democratic nation. When they take note of this, tragically, they’re vulnerable to begin subconsciously perceiving themselves as beings without value. I’ve observed this in particular with indigenous-nation people living with substance abuse/addiction related to residential school psychological trauma, including the indigenous children’s unmarked graves in Canada. A resultant debilitating drug addiction is a continuous attempt at silencing through self-medicating their great pain or PTSD.

    When I say this, I primarily have in mind indigenous-nation Canadians. But, tragically, such horrendous occurrences still happen on Earth, often enough going unrealized to the rest of the world. In Canada’s case, residential schooling (et al) was a serious attempt at annihilating native culture. Indigenous children’s unmarked graves, as sadly anticipated as the finds were (and still others are expected), must not be in vain. Rather, it must mark the start of a substantial progressive move forward for indigenous nations, especially regarding life’s fundamental necessities (i.e. proper shelter and clean air, water and food).

    Liked by 1 person

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