For many people in Native American communities, the federal holiday Columbus Day serves as a painful reminder of the brutal European settlement and conquest of the Americas. These communities, along with many others, want to change Columbus Day to be a holiday that recognizes the Native (Indigenous) Americans in our midst.
Native American Day or Indigenous People’s Day
Here in South Dakota, since 1990, the second Monday of October is Native American Day. A growing number of states and cities have chosen not to observe the federal holiday of Columbus Day. Some have also chosen to celebrate Native American Day or Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day. A few other states celebrate Native American Day on another day during the year.
Much of what Columbus did was because of the Doctrine of Discovery. This term is explained by The Episcopal Church’s materials on the Doctrine of Discovery, as “a set of legal and ecclesiastical documents and policies which gave the full blessing and sanction of the Church to the colonizing dispossession (genocide) of the Indigenous peoples and lands of the Americas.”
Former Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori urges us “to learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery and the search for healing in our native communities. But this is also a matter for healing in communities and persons of European immigrant descent. Colonists, settlers, and homesteaders benefited enormously from the availability of ‘free’ land, and their descendants continue to benefit to this day. That land was taken by force or subterfuge from peoples who had dwelt on it from time immemorial – it was their ‘promised land.'”
It is time for the church to speak up for our siblings in the Native tribal nations throughout this land and to speak up against the genocide that began with Christopher Columbus and continues to this day (i.e., Native Americans have died in higher proportions from Covid-19 than any other demographic.).
Prayers & Liturgy
Click here to download a simple liturgy that you can use on Native American Day (Indigenous People’s Day) or during Native American Heritage month (November). This liturgy includes multiple prayers, two forms of Prayers of the People, and music suggestions.
A Prayer for Healing and Hope
O Great Spirit, God of all people and every tribe,
through whom all people are related;
Call us to the kinship of all your people.
Grant us vision to see through the lens of our Baptismal Covenant,
the brokenness of the past;
Help us to listen to one another,
in order to heal the wounds of the present;
And give us courage, patience, and wisdom to work together
for healing and hope with all of your people,
now and in the future.
Mend the hoop of our hearts and let us live in
justice and peace
through Jesus Christ,
the One who comes to all people
that we might live in dignity. Amen.
(St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Port Royal VA)