People in Charlottesville Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day

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People are opting to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 8 People are opting to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 8
Karenne Wood Karenne Wood

Across the country, people are choosing to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day on Monday, October 8.

"Nobody really talks to native people, so the image that we've had of ourselves has been horrible up until recently,” Karenne Wood, the director of the Virginia Indian Programs, said “And so now we have this whole story all of this time and you just didn't learn it because people didn't teach it to you."

Each year, more and more localities are holding celebrations for Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day.

"It means that we're changing our focus away from the idea that Columbus discovered America when there were already thousands of people who lived here, and celebrating the fact that indigenous people have survived," Wood said.

Wood, who's a member of the Monacan Indian Nation, wants to change the conversation about her people's history.

"I think we need to recognize that native people are not invisible, that we are not people of the past, or obstacles to American civilization - but that we've always been here,” Wood said.

Members of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective say learning the history of native people honors their hard work.

"It’s to honor and respect the real history, the human history that was here, to recognize that their land was stolen, the people were oppressed, they were not treated as equals,” Rabia Povich of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, said.

The city of Charlottesville started recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day in 2017, but Wood feels there is still work to be done.

"We've talked about Lee and Jackson extensively, but we've never talked about George Rogers Clark and Lewis and Clark with Sacagawea cowering in the background,” Wood said.

Monday night's event was co-sponsored by Kluge-Ruhe, the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, the Virginia Humanities Foundation, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights.