Statement from NOW President Toni Van Pelt, NOW Board Member Arizona Senator Victoria Steele, Seneca/Mingo/German ancestry, and Cheryl Wapes’a-Mayes Assiniboine/Sioux/Métis:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — NOW is proud to continue to support the growing national movement to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 14 rather than Columbus Day. It is wrong to honor a figure who colonized, enslaved and massacred thousands of Indigenous People in the Americas. Instead, we must lift up the experiences of Native American women in the United States, who are still being mistreated, abused and ignored by the patriarchy and the power structure.
According to government statistics, Native American and Alaskan Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the U.S. The Amnesty International report Maze of Injustice includes statements from Indigenous women who say they didn’t know anyone in their community who has not experienced sexual violence. And survivors in at least 86 per cent of reported cases identified the perpetrators as non-Native men.
These devastating statistics have historical precedent. The colonization and Westernization of the Americas took a devastating toll on Indigenous peoples, who were raped by settlers and soldiers, including during the Long Walk and the Trail of Tears. These attacks were not random acts of individual violence—they were weapons of conquest and oppression that were planned to serve a terrible purpose. That history is no basis for a holiday.
Today, we observe Indigenous People’s Day to remember the dark side of America’s origin story and to rededicate ourselves to addressing our ongoing obligation to heal these wounds and to work with tribal nations to promote the health and safety of Indigenous People.
Kimberly Hayes, Press Secretary, email@example.com, 202-570-4745