Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
Yellow Bird Apache Dancer
Today, August 9, is recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of the World's Indigenous People.
Since 2005, the International Day of the World's Indigenous People has been celebrated on August 9 each year to recognize the first United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations meeting in Geneva in 1982.
On December 23, 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World's Indigenous People should be observed on August 9 annually during the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People.
In 2004 the assembly proclaimed the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People (2005-2014). The assembly also decided to continue observing the International Day of Indigenous People annually during the second decade. The decade's goal was to further strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as culture, education, health, human rights, the environment, and social and economic development.
As this nation's indigenous people, American Indians throughout the United States should pause today to celebrate who we are as indigenous people. We know our history has not always been easy.
Being a people that passed our histories orally from one generation to the next, we know American Indians have rich stories to share. We need to tell our own stories. We know that we have not always appreciated how we have been depicted by non-Indians. It is time to tell our own stories.
For decades, in boarding schools, there was an intentional movement to strip American Indians of our culture. In some cases, it was purposely "beat out" of us. Fortunately, this gross injustice perpetrated against American Indians was not 100 percent successful. Our culture survived and, most important, so did we. Fortunately, we can now celebrate our cultures as Native people.
This past December at the 2010 White House Tribal Nations Conference, President Obama embraced the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on behalf of the United States.
The Declaration speaks clearly about the rights indigenous people around the world have. Finally this country is embracing some fundamental principles it has preached around the world when it did not live up to them with American Indians.
While this move by the Obama administration is a positive gesture in the right direction, American Indians must demand full compliance of the Declaration by the United States, even down to respecting our sacred burial sites.
On this International Day of the World's Indigenous People, American Indians can be proud that we have been rich in stories and we can now openly celebrate our cultures.
Now it is time to craft our future.
revised 2:15 pm; posted August 9, 2011 10:50 am edt
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