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On Friday, Biden issued the very first presidential proclamation on Indigenous Peoples Day and gave the efforts to realign the national holiday in honor of Christopher Columbus the biggest boost to date for an appreciation of the indigenous peoples.

The day is celebrated on October 11th along with Columbus Day established by Congress. While Native Americans have been campaigning for local and national days to recognize the country’s indigenous peoples for years, Biden’s announcement seemed to surprise many.

“That was completely unexpected. Although we’ve been talking about it for so long and wanting it, ”said Hillary Kempenich, artist and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In 2019, she and other tribesmen successfully campaigned for their city of Grand Forks, ND, to replace Columbus Day with a day of tribal recognition.

“I’m kind of overwhelmed with joy,” said Kempenich. She waited on Friday afternoon for her eighth grade daughter, who had grown up with the challenging depictions of Columbus by teachers, to come home from school so Kempenich could share the news.

“For generations, federal politics has systematically tried to assimilate and expel indigenous people and to exterminate indigenous cultures,” wrote Biden in the proclamation on Indigenous Peoples Day. “Today we recognize the resilience and strength of the indigenous peoples and the immeasurable positive influence they have had on every aspect of American society.”

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