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News Release

Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe

On September 23, 2022; a bill was introduced into the New York State Legislature that seeks to designate October 12th as a statewide holiday known as “Indigenous Peoples Day.” The proposed legislation would replace “Columbus Day” and will give state recognition to Indigenous societies for their historic and ongoing contributions. Since the bill’s introduction, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe has been contacted for our perspective.

Through responses provided to several media outlets, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe continues to express appreciation to state legislators for their desire to recognize the contributions that Indigenous peoples have made, as well as the challenges that we continue to face. A special appreciation is extended to New York State Senator Jessica Ramos (D, WF), 13th District, for sponsoring the bill in the State Senate (S02759), while New York State Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes (D), 51st District, sponsored similar legislation in the New York State Assembly (A10728).

The proposed legislation seeks to observe Indigenous Peoples Day as a public holiday on the second Monday in October. In a legislative memo that accompanied the bill, “Indigenous People’s Day reimagines Columbus Day and changes a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to reveal historical truths about the genocide and oppression of Indigenous people in the Americas, to organize against current injustices and to celebrate Indigenous resistance.”

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Despite the beliefs of some elected officials, Christopher Columbus did not pave the way for Americans to set up their own nation and Constitutional Republic. That distinction is owed to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), who served as the oldest form of participatory democracy in the world. Dating to the late-12th century (approx. 1142), the confederacy that the Haudenosaunee formed provided this country’s founding fathers with many of the democratic principles that were incorporated into the U.S. Constitution.

What Christopher Columbus did provide is the earliest form of colonialism in the Western Hemisphere - specifically in the Caribbean Islands, Central and South America. Having never discovered America nor stepped foot in the continental United States, as noted in the proposed legislation, Columbus committed unimaginable atrocities, including the introduction of foreign diseases that took a fatal toll on millions of Indigenous peoples.

When the state legislature reconvenes in January 2023, the bill’s passage will see New York State joining an increasing number of states, tribal and city governments, as well as communities and school districts, who have already taken steps to correct past injustices by giving formal recognition to Indigenous peoples for their historic and ongoing contributions to their history, culture, and economic life.

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.

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