Please join Laura Waterman Wittstock on Wednesday, October 17th as she talks with Clyde Bellecourt about one of the most painful public displays to American Indians: Columbus Day celebrations. Clyde Bellecourt is the founder and continuing leader in local, national, and international projects either founded or inspired by the American Indian Movement.
In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day a national holiday, in response to intense lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, an influential Catholic fraternal benefits organization. Originally observed every October 12, it was fixed to the second Monday in October in 1971.
The image of Christopher Columbus as a discoverer has been challenged by the American Indian Movement since 1970. Columbus arrived in the Bahamas where he and his men forced native peoples into slavery. While serving as the governor of Hispaniola, he imposed barbaric forms of punishment, including cutting off noses and other torture to force native people to work.
According to http://www.history.com/topics/columbus-day: several Latin American nations note the anniversary of Columbus' landing has traditionally been observed as the Dìa de la Raza ("Day of the Race"), a celebration of Hispanic culture's diverse roots. In 2002, Venezuela renamed the holiday Dìa de la Resistencia Indìgena ("Day of Indigenous Resistance") to recognize native peoples and their experience. Several U.S. cities and states have replaced Columbus Day with alternative days of remembrance; examples include Berkeley's Indigenous Peoples Day, South Dakota's Native American Day and Hawaii's Discoverer's Day, which commemorates the arrival of Polynesian settlers.
Clyde Howard Bellecourt co-founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1968. His Ojibwe name is Nee-gon-we-way-we-dun which means "Thunder Before the Storm." He is an enrolled member of White Earth Nation. He founded Heart of the Earth Survival School in 1972. In all, over 10,000 students attended the school in its 40-year history. Other organizations founded by Bellecourt are the Elaine M. Stately Peacemaker Center for Indian youth, AIM Patrol which provides security for Indian community, Legal Rights Center, MIGIZI Communications, Inc., Native American Community Clinic, Women of Nations Eagle Nest Shelter, and American Indian OIC (Opportunities Industrialization Center.