Indigenous Peoples’ Day sequestered by Westport Public Schools

Indigenous+Peoples%E2%80%99+Day+2021+was+celebrated+on+Monday%2C+Oct.+11.+Westport+Public+Schools+did+not+have+the+day+off%2C+while+other+schools+in+Fairfield+country+took+the+day+off+of+school+to+honor+those+of+Indigenous+origin.+The+holiday+was+first+created+in+1992%2C+to+support+those+who+suffered+during+the+colonization+of+America.+

Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2021 was celebrated on Monday, Oct. 11. Westport Public Schools did not have the day off, while other schools in Fairfield country took the day off of school to honor those of Indigenous origin. The holiday was first created in 1992, to support those who suffered during the colonization of America.

Izzy Sareen ‘22

What is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, you may ask? It’s simple, really. It’s an honorable day of the year where American civilians are supposed to show support for the Indigenous people of our country. 

This year, Indigenous Peoples’ Day happened to fall on Monday, Oct. 11. Was there any knowledge of this important day? No. In fact, unlike schools such as Joseph Barlow High School in Redding, Connecticut and Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut, students at Staples High School did not have the day off or even have any sort of recognition of the symbolic day. Not only do I believe this to be extremely disrespectful to those in our community who are of Native American origin, but it completely disregards those who died for their tribes throughout our history as well. 

First created in 1992 to protest the historical conquest of North America by the Europeans, Indigenous Peoples’ Day was born to honor America’s indigenous peoples. On this day, people are called to bring attention to the suffering and deaths of the Native American people and their culture, which were severely hurt through wars, mass killings, forced assimilation and diseases brought over from Europe in an attempt to wipe out the entire population of Native Americans in North America. 

Walking into school on Monday with the expectation that there would at least be some sort of activity going on in support of the holiday, I was astonished. Perhaps there was a slight mention of the day on the loudspeaker during morning announcements, but nothing else. Silence. ”

— Izzy Sareen ‘22

Originally celebrated as Columbus Day, many states such as Virginia and New York are starting to change the holiday name to Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor the Native Americans who suffered at the hands of Columbus and the colonizing Europeans. 

Walking into school on Monday with the expectation that there would at least be some sort of activity going on in support of the holiday, I was astonished. Perhaps there was a slight mention of the day on the loudspeaker during morning announcements, but nothing else. Silence. 

Recently, popular YouTube blogger Gabby Petito went missing in Wyoming, and was later found dead in Grand Teton National Park. Right where Gabby Petito went missing, an estimate of 710 Indigenous women went missing within the time period of 2011 to the current day. I have personally seen little to no coverage of these incidents.

This is where the concept of pretty privilege comes into play. While the whole media world covered Gabby Petito’s case in full detail several times over, I had to do extensive outside research in order to learn more about the several hundred women who had gone missing in similar ways as Petito did. Indigenous women do not get nearly as much attention as white, American women. 

Coverage of incidents as such is key to achieving equality in at least one way. These women deserve to be heard, and they deserve to have their cases looked at in as much detail as Petito’s was, but it all can’t happen over night. This change has to start small, and come from within smaller communities, in order to work its way up into the larger nation. 

Simply taking the day off to honor those of our country who belong to backgrounds of Indigenous Tribes is the first step in the journey towards giving Indigenous people the respect and tribute they deserve.

So I ask you as members of the Westport community, do you think Indigenous Peoples’ Day is worth the recognition? The correct answer is yes, so let’s start to act now.