Today, October 10 is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. “Indigenous people” is a broad term that refers to any culture that lived in a place first. It is good practice that we honor the original inhabitants, understand the losses they suffered and recognize the inequities that exist in our treatment of indigenous people.
According to Howard Zinn’s “A people’s history of the United States,” in 1515, there were perhaps 50,000 Indians left and by 1550, there were 500. Today, approximately 1.5% of the U.S. population — 4.1 million Americans — identify themselves as having American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) heritage.
It’s important that we acknowledge the truth that the historic homelands that we are on were originally inhabited by indigenous people. Taking a moment to authentically recognize the sacrifices of the original inhabitants not only shows respect but also progress towards social justice. And, it can be done in a simple sentence like: ” We would like to take a moment to recognize the sacrifice of the tribes (name them) that once lived and thrived here.”
Most American Indians now live in Western states, with 42% in rural areas compared to 23% of whites. In 1980, most American Indians lived on reservations or trust lands, compared to only 20% today. Over 50% now live in urban, suburban, or rural non-reservation areas.
American Indians speak over 200 indigenous languages. Approximately 280,000 speak a language other than English at home; more than half of Alaska Natives who are Eskimos speak either Inuit or Yup’ik.