Indigenous Peoples Day: Moving Support Beyond a Hashtag

While some may refer to October 10th as a holiday celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas, others view this as a day to recognize the oppression and exploitation of Indigenous peoples worldwide.

There has been a growing movement in recent years by Indigenous Peoples and allies to abolish ‘Columbus Day’ and to replace it with ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ as a response to the painful silence and exclusion Indigenous Peoples face in mainstream media and curricula. Instead of praising the glory of white colonization, today is a day to commemorate the struggle and resilience of tribes across the world whose ancestors were killed and forcibly removed from their lands.

Indigenous Peoples continuously face threats to their land, air, and water by developers and oil companies seeking to extract rich minerals and resources for production.

Last week, my Social Media and Social Movements Class at Haas School of Business had the privilege to hear from the powerful, Sônia Guajajara, the national coordinator of Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples (APIB). Sônia emphasized that the “struggle for indigenous rights is a struggle for all of humanity.” Within this struggle, Sônia described that the democratization of communication via social media has been vital in supporting the fight for Indigenous land rights and an alternative economic model that supports culture, diversity, and nature.

Sônia and other Indigenous Rights activists worldwide continue to find that social media can play a powerful role when people are placing their bodies and land on the line to blockade the construction of pipelines, dams, and so forth.

Social media has been particularly helpful for those fighting on the front lines alongside the Standing Rock Sioux who are currently protesting the construction of the controversial, $3.7 billion, Dakota Access Pipeline. Tribes from both the U.S. and from around the world are traveling to North Dakota to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux who are fighting to halt the construction of the pipeline. They believe that this pipeline will further destroy ancestral lands, pollute local water sources, and threaten the safety of their people. With the use of #NoDAPL, #RezpectourWater #StandwithStandingRock, citizens across the globe are being updated in real time about the ongoing battle.

Although social media has been an incredible tool to provide a platform for Indigenous solidarity, our society needs to go beyond hashtag activism to understand why the narratives of federally recognized tribes are silenced by mainstream media. This is the largest Native American protest in history, yet news outlets seem to not be covering its progression? Until our country chooses to recognize its dark and uncomfortable past by providing tribes with the respect and sovereignty they deserve, we will continue to perpetuate injustice and human rights abuses.

We must stand with those in Standing Rock in the name of democracy, peace, and climate justice. We can do this by lobbying for greater Indigenous history in K-12 education, promoting the narratives of Indigenous leaders and community members through our social media and personal circles, and donating our time and/ or money to supporting their fight.

You can donate to :

Follow UC Berkeley students who will be traveling to North Dakota next month:

Students of Color Environmental Collective at UC Berkeley standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux