Oct 11, 2022
US celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day Transcript
Dylan Baca, Chairman & CEO of Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative, explains the importance of recognizing the history and experiences of indigenous people in America. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Today marks Indigenous People’s Day. It was once known as Columbus Day, but Indigenous People’s Day proclaimed by President Biden last year honors Native Americans, their resilience, their contributions to our American society throughout our history and long before.
Speaker 1: (00:15)
Our next guest is a citizen of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and Navajo Nation, and he was instrumental in helping broker that first proclamation for Indigenous People’s Day. Dylan Baca, the chairman and CEO of Indigenous People’s Initiative, joins us now after celebration today in New York.
Speaker 1: (00:32)
Dylan, good to see you. Congratulations. How does it feel? We’re on our way to a national holiday, that really does shift our emphasis on the European settlement of America and what went on before.
Dylan Baca: (00:48)
Well, thank you for having me. But yes, it’s a monumental change within the makeup of how we view history within our country. It puts at the forefront of things the ability to recognize past wrongs and be able to build something that is stronger and better and more unified. And I think that’s what really Indigenous People’s Day represents, an honest and truthful representation of history itself. And by being able to do that, we’re able to recognize us being able to work together more collectively in the future.
Speaker 1: (01:22)
Absolutely. For you personally, as somebody that’s played this role, but now celebrating this day, what does it mean for you?
Dylan Baca: (01:31)
It’s touching to see how history has moved throughout time. Somebody I look to for inspiration is my great-grandmother. My great-grandmother was born in 1923, a year before Native Americans were considered citizens of the United States and 40 years previous to Native Americans receiving citizenship, as well. It’s in that amount of time, and when she passed away, she was able to see Native Americans in the corridors of power in the halls of Congress.
Dylan Baca: (01:59)
Seeing that shift over a large amount of time, it means progress in the best sense possible. It means the opportunity for indigenous peoples who’ve often not had a voice at the table to now have one, and to be recognized by a country that has often disenfranchised us in many ways.
Speaker 1: (02:19)
Absolutely. Dylan, let me ask you, there’s a segment of the country that will feel that by shifting our focus, our attention this way on the history of America, somehow were not just deemphasizing, but disrespecting or dishonoring the Europeans, including my ancestors and others who came here. How do you answer people who have that concern?
Dylan Baca: (02:44)
I think it goes back to my heritage, as well. I’m biracial, so I come from Native American descent, but my dad comes from a European descent, as well. And it’s something that I have thought a lot about as far as my identity and looking at that. For me personally, I look at it being able to celebrate both. But again, it’s being able to tell a more truthful and honest narrative of past wrongs and be able to tell not only the stories of triumph, but also tragedy that have built this wonderful country. And if we choose to ignore those moments and glance over them by glorifying somebody like Christopher Columbus, then that sets us apart from actually being able to tell that more truthful narrative of history. Again, I think it goes back to the idea of being able to recognize it, and from it, being able to build that sentiment of more truthful history.
Speaker 1: (03:44)
Right. Tell the whole story, tell the truth, tell it straight.
Speaker 1: (03:47)
You mentioned Columbus Day, as I was growing up, we celebrated Columbus Day. I was in Chicago, big Italian American community there. That was their hero, was way of them essentially becoming a part of the American family with a holiday celebrating an Italian like that. What do you think of Columbus and what do you think of Columbus Day and what would you say to all those Italian Americans who felt it was special for them?
Dylan Baca: (04:17)
I don’t have a problem recognizing the major contributions or just the contributions of Italian Americans in general. I think it’s important that we recognize the diversity within the United States, but also recognize the people that we’re here first. It is a huge importance to doing so, as well.
Dylan Baca: (04:38)
I say to them we’re not trying to contribute to the erasure of American history or your history, but being able to build that more truthful and honest version of it by doing so. The history of Columbus himself is one of genocide, one of rape, one of removing people from their indigenous homelands in a forceful and colonist way. I think it’s important to recognize that, and by celebrating that man, we aren’t able to do that. But having something like Indigenous People’s day, it gives us the ability to recognize both sides of that. Not only the triumphs of history itself, but also those tragedies that existed, as well.
Speaker 1: (05:22)
For people who are paying attention to your stories, the stories of that indigenous side of your family and all of our fellow Americans who can trace their ancestry back well before Christopher Columbus. What’s next? What are the most important challenges you want people to understand that indigenous people face?
Dylan Baca: (05:42)
Indigenous peoples face an amalgam of challenges on a daily basis. For one instance, the mortality rate of indigenous peoples is 10 years less than the national average. Indigenous peoples suffer from higher rate of poverty than non-tribal people. There’s higher rates of suicide within tribal communities. There’s lesser rates of economic development. It’s these things that we must recognize in order to build that stronger future for other parts of our community, our global community, not just in the United States, but around the world, to be able to build back in a stronger way.
Dylan Baca: (06:29)
There’s an amount of problems that Indian country faces, but if we are able to recognize them and work collectively, then we can see change that improves the quality of life for many people.
Speaker 1: (06:42)
And for all our country. And Dylan Baca, thanks for helping us understand it better and tell the whole story. Thanks very much, Dylan.
Dylan Baca: (06:50)
Thank you for having me.
George Stephanopoulos: (06:52)
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