Editorial: Take pride in Native American Day in South Dakota

The following editorial appears in the latest issue of the Native Sun News. All content © Native Sun News.

Honor Native American Day in SD, not Columbus Day
By Native Sun News Editorial board

South Dakota’s citizens have never really taken pride in the fact that they are residents of a state that is the only one of the 50 that has a state holiday named Native American Day.

In 1989 an editorial by Tim Giago in the one and only original Lakota Times challenged Gov. George Mickelson to honor those Lakota slaughtered at Wounded Knee by introducing and passing a Bill that would replace Columbus Day with Native American Day.

This editorial was prompted by the historic fact that the upcoming year, 1990, would mark the 100th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre. Giago felt that the State of South Dakota should do something to honor those 300 men, women and children that were ruthlessly murdered on that day.

With a lot of lobbying by Giago, his staff at the Lakota Times, and the Governor and his supporters, the state legislators passed the Bill and South Dakota became the only state to celebrate Native American Day in lieu of Columbus Day. It was accomplished peacefully without a shot being fired. In this case the power of the press was prevalent.

But try to get that across to most residents of this State. Sure as shooting when Native American Day rolls around there will be advertisements put out by nearly all of the major department stores and other businesses in Rapid City urging customers to come into their places of business for their special Columbus Day sales.

Why is that? It is because the corporations that own the local businesses like K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Sears, Target and J.C. Penney are located in faraway cities like New York, Chicago or Dallas. They have no idea that there is a Native American Day in South Dakota and that is because the local managers have never taken the time to explain this special day to them. And so they will still celebrate Columbus Day regardless of the local holiday named to replace it.

This practice is pervasive, annoying, and insulting to all Native Americans residing in South Dakota. And the mainstream media in this State does very little to stand up for Native Americans, but instead follow the lead of their corporate owners like a herd sheep.

We can also point a finger at many of the schools on the Indian reservations that have not taken the time to understand why this holiday happened and why it is important to use this day not as just another day off, but use it to celebrate the history of Native people everywhere. No other state can make this claim and Indian schools should be honored to have this holiday as their own.

Since the mainstream media knows little or nothing about this special day South Dakota Public Broadcasting should take the lead as it did in the old days by giving some air time to commemorate Native American Day and the history behind it, and please do not think for one minute that the idea came from the mind of a non-Indian because it did not: It came from the mind of a Native American.

It is still early and those people planning the Black Hills Pow Wow and all of the schools and colleges on the Indian reservations still have the time to make Native American Day a special day for themselves and their students. Let all Native Americans in South Dakota stand tall for Native American Day because the fight to make it a reality was a long and difficult fight. And never forget that this special day was named to honor the Lakota men, women and children slaughtered at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890.

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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