It was an honor to celebrate Seattle’s first Indigenous Peoples’ Day alongside the activists and organizers who made it all possible. This action was long overdue, and media outlets from around the nation and the world correctly recognized the importance of what we have achieved in Seattle. See below for some of my interviews from the past few weeks, where I put this victory into perspective and discuss the need to keep this momentum going.
“This Resolution is about more than just a name change. It is about educating ourselves and our children, about taking a stand against racism and discrimination.”
Kshama Sawant: “I think that this conversation is much broader than it might appear on the surface… The question of climate change, the question of resource sustainability and who owns the resources and who gets to pay the price for the plunder of our natural resources, that issue is global, but it’s also connected to the fate of the indigenous communities. And they are some of the most—they have been some of the most courageous fighters against the Keystone XL pipeline.
Al Jazeera America: “Americans trying to redefine Columbus Day”
Sawant said the celebration of Columbus Day should be ended. “If we are to send a message of empowerment to all our young people,” she said, “we should end the celebration of somebody who represents and who was himself personally responsible for the genocide of an entire people of an entire continent.”
Seattle Times: “Native Americans cheer city’s new Indigenous Peoples’ Day”
Councilmember Kshama Sawant was clear about why activists pushed for the city to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same date as Columbus Day: “Learning about the history of Columbus and transforming this day into a celebration of indigenous people and a celebration of social justice … allows us to make a connection between this painful history and the ongoing marginalization, discrimination and poverty that indigenous communities face to this day.”
“Learning about the history of Columbus and transforming this day into a celebration of indigenous people and a celebration of social justice … allows us to make a connection between this painful history and the ongoing marginalization, discrimination and poverty that indigenous communities face to this day,” Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant said.
While the focus is on history, the debate over Columbus Day is still quite relevant to current struggles, said Sawant, a socialist. “Everything that’s happening around us is showing us that more and more people are realizing that in general, this system of capitalism that rests on a history of slavery and colonialism and continues the exploitation and war and violence to this day is not working for us,” she said. “We need an alternative. There’s never been a better time for us to be united and fight for socialism, fight against corporate domination. We want this resolution to be a building block to start…a real debate about why is it that we see such poverty, unemployment, and such brutalization of our indigenous communities even today?”
“This is about taking a stand against racism and discrimination,” Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant told the Seattle Times. “Learning about the history of Columbus and transforming this day into a celebration of indigenous people and a celebration of social justice … allows us to make a connection between this painful history and the ongoing marginalization, discrimination and poverty that indigenous communities face to this day.”
Seattle isn’t the first city to make this change, but it may be the highest-profile city to do so, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Council Member Kshama Sawant, who’s been taking part in a media tour to talk about why Indigenous Peoples Day is a big deal.
Al Jazeera America: “Should Christopher Columbus Be Honored?”
During Al Jazeera America’s Sunday night segment, “The Week Ahead,” Thomas Drayton spoke to Kshama Sawant, a Council Member in the Seattle City Council, joining the discussion from Seattle; and to Rebecca Adamson, founder and president of First Peoples Worldwide, from Washington, DC.
Seattle’s socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant talked about learning of “the pain and suffering of the racism and genocide influenced on our communities,” and minorities that are still “marginalized and exploited.” She ended with a reference to Ferguson, Missouri.
HuffPost Live: “Free Speech Zone with @AlyonaMink”, segment begins at 7:03
In the “Free Speech Zone,” Sawant speaks to the crimes of Columbus, and explains how the early struggles of Indigenous peoples are reflected today in the current Ebola crisis, noting that “the struggle of Indigenous people is very much tied to our broader struggle for worker’s rights and for a fundamental shift away from capitalism.”
On Q13, Kshama Sawant spoke to the concerns of the Italian American community, while emphasizing that Columbus “didn’t discover America, he plundered it.” For Sawant, “this is a recognition of the vibrant and rich cultural heritage of the Indigenous community…and it’s also a recognition of the pain and suffering that the community has been through.”