The words “Expect Us” are spray painted on the base of the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Park as Indigenous and environmental activists protest in front of the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. The words are part of the phrase “Respect Us, or Expect Us” which indigenous women have been using while protesting oil company Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline through Minnesota. President Joe Biden on Friday issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day, lending the most significant boost yet to efforts to refocus the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus toward an appreciation of Native peoples. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Indigenous people across the United States marked Monday with celebrations of their heritage, education campaigns and a push for the Biden administration to make good on its word.
The federal holiday created decades ago to recognize Christopher Columbus’ sighting in 1492 of what came to be known as the Americas increasingly has been rebranded as Indigenous Peoples Day.
For Michaela Pavlat, cultural interpreter at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, the day is one of celebration, reflection and recognition that Indigenous communities are fighting for land rights, for the U.S. government to uphold treaties, and for visibility and understanding.
“As long as you’re on Native land and stolen land, it’s Indigenous Peoples Day,” said Pavlat, who is Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians (Anishinaabe). “We have a lot of movement and a lot of issues we’re facing in our communities, and you can have that conversation every day.”
More than a dozen protesters linked arms and sat along the White House fence line Monday to call on the Biden administration to do more to combat climate change and ban fossil fuels. Others cheered and chanted in support from across the street as police blocked off the area with yellow tape and arrested the seated protesters.