(WSYR-TV) — While one community will recognize Columbus Day, another will celebrate the importance of Indigenous People’s Day. It focuses on the contributions of Native Americans.
The director of the Native American and Indigenous People’s program at Syracuse University, Scott Stevens, says nationally, students aren’t taught about the depth of genocide they face.
You don’t really learn about Native American history or Native American culture after 4th grade and [school] doesn’t really talk about genocide, boarding schools, land disposition. It’s more about Pocahontas, first Thanksgiving, and things like that.Scott Stevens
However, over the years, recognition for the holiday has picked up steam.
"The reality of it was, at one point, the Americas, North, and South, were 100 percent Indigenous and now most countries with settler-colonial governments like Canada, the U.S., Argentina, Chile, Brazil, we represent less than 10 or 5 percent of the population. So how did that come to be," said Stevens.
This year, Stevens encourages everyone to learn more about the Indigenous communities they live with and understand the history of genocide. Recent civil rights movements have also sparked more recognition for the holiday.
"People realize it's not just 'Well, I'm not Native American so I don't care about it,' but there are some kind of intersectional qualities of social justice that you don't think I'm just gonna go this alone,” Stevens said.
The fact that Indigenous Americans, along with other people of color, have been included in this larger movement and in discussions I think is, is an interesting difference between kind of civil rights movements in the past. It is genuinely much more inclusive and much more intersectional in its outlook.Scott Stevens
This summer, Mayor Ben Walsh created an action committee to make decisions about the future of Syracuse’s Columbus Circle. On Friday, it was announced the statue will be taken down.