A settling comes with Autumn. As if restlessness is married to frosty mornings and the folding and browning of leaves in the garden. This moment is one of settling up. One cannot let too many frosts go by without picking the last of summers produce. Both the over-ripe and the green recipes come out. Salsas and relishes are the order of the day.
Initially a pause, of sorts, inhabits the landscape in this season. Summers constant movement of irrigation, cutting, raking, baling, and repeat ends with the last haying. The criticalness of irrigation slows with cooling weather. Winter is a breath away though. So if fall planting is to occur, life is all about soil preparation, planting of seed, and irrigating until plants are tall and roots are deep enough to take on winters freeze.
Restlessness often moves us toward change. Plowing ground is one. Yet another has been called for for years. In the federal US, this day of October has long been named Columbus Day. For some time, and surely a few will jump on the bandwagon today, municipalities have been renaming this day as Indigenous Day or Indigenous Peoples Day or something along that order. Over the years I have wondered if such change is appropriate.
Arguing Columbus Day is problematic is not the hardest of tasks. Nor is changing the name of the day into something along the lines of Indigenous Day or Native American Day all that hard either (as it is in South Dakota (1999) or in California (1968)—though on the fourth Friday in September). However, having change become more meaningful than symbolic is hard.
In our restlessness to have life right and correct might we dishonor our ancestors with such symbolism? That is not to say symbolism is not important, but it is to say that if the people who argue for surface change are not willing to put the time into arguing for depth, then the change is name only and surely we will lose our ancestor’s dreams and visions and damage the landscape, again.
Currently Columbus Day calls many people, if not most, to the yearly awareness of US and colonial government atrocities against indigenous people. Columbus Day keeps the story of indigenous slaughter at the forefront in a similar way that (understanding Christians and Jews hold King David as a hero) Second Samuel is a constant reminder that King David was the rapist of Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. Having Columbus Day on the calendar as a reminder to the atrocities we and our kin are capable of may serve us better than a change that hides the slaughter.
After all, special days go only as far as we use them. For instance, in 1990 President H.W. Bush declared November as Native American Heritage Month—also sometimes referred to as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. How many folk are aware of this month’s identity after twenty-seven years? And for those of us who are, how many of us make a point of raising awareness for indigenous justice each week of the month—let alone each day?
In the restlessness of this season it is important to get it as right as we can. Is it important to change the Name of this Federal day or is it more important to change its Meaning from a day of honor to a day of federal and systemic disgrace? I value the latter.
It is important to lay plow to the ground of injustice. However, the turning of soil should not erase the memory of injustice nor the knowledge of just how capable we are of inflicting such injustice. To do so matters to our actions as a people and a Nation. In our current context, might that not matter