Dancers at the Black Hills Powwow, held every October in Rapid City, South Dakota, around the same time as Native American Day. The 2020 Powwow has been postponed due to COVID-19, with preparations underway for a celebration in 2021. Photo: Jeremiah M. Murphy

Native Sun News Today Editorial: 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the Year of Reconciliation and Native American Day

Twenty years ago Gov. George Mickelson was interviewed by Tim Giago of Indian Country Today and during the interview he was asked, “What is the hardest part of your job?” He replied, “Race relations between Indians and whites.” He added, “I wish I could do something about it.”

Giago told the Governor that 1990 marked the 100th Anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee and that would be a good time to do something to bring attention to it.

Together they came up with a Year of Reconciliation to mark the anniversary and discussed the possibility of dropping Columbus Day on October 12 and changing the name to Native American Day and proclaim it as a state holiday.

Tim Giago, left, is shown with the late Gov. George Mickelson in 1990. Giago lobbied the governor to proclaim 1990 a year of peace between Indians and Whites in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre. Giago also lobbied the governor to change Columbus Day to Native American Day. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today
With support of the South Dakota legislators, most of them Republicans, the Year of Reconciliation was introduced and Native American Day replaced Columbus Day.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of those remarkable events and it is about time that every Non-Native and every Native look into their hearts and recognize the fact that for too many years neither race has appreciated or moved forward to improve race relations in these 30 years. It took a lot of courage for Mickelson to even introduce such outlandish ideas in a state like South Dakota and to get the legislation passed was a minor miracle.

As it stands now, South Dakota is the only state in 50 that has an official holiday named Native American Day. The entire news staff at the old Indian Country Today put its heart and soul into making this happen. It proved that a newspaper can do more than just report the news. A minority newspaper can be an advocate for its people. It can suggest and promote positive change. Mickelson and Giago were both very disappointed that the state’s white media never got behind or promoted this idea.

Why don’t we, as Lakota people, really make this 30th anniversary special? Wouldn’t it be great if all of the Native and Non-Native schools in South Dakota celebrate together?

Why can’t the State Government and all of the city governments make this anniversary special?


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