TOLEDO, Ohio — President Joe Biden signed two proclamations declaring today, Oct. 11, both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples' Day.
The declaration spotlights the various Native American tribes across the country.
Native American leaders in northwest Ohio say Biden's actions are a huge step forward for the recognition of America's first peoples.
Jaime Oxendine, the director of the InterTribal Foundation here in northwest Ohio, says Indigenous Peoples' Day is a complicated but important holiday for Native Americans.
"For some, it's a day of mourning. They're going to do various types of activities and events and let people know, unfortunately, of the millions and millions of native people that have sacrificed and suffered and died at the hands of European Colonization and later American Colonization," explained Oxendine. "However there are some others that will be having events of music and dance and celebration that we are still here."
While not recognized as an official holiday in every state - including Ohio - the day was created to honor the indigenous peoples who first lived on the land we know as the United States of America. Oxendine says Native American culture is a major part of the American story - but that is often forgotten.
"We're still considered either in the past, or that we're not even a part of the country, and our history is everywhere. You see our names everywhere. Over 20 states are Native American words," said Oxendine.
Ohio is one of those states that carries a Native American name, but in 1840, the state was one of many who forcibly removed all of its tribes and relocated them out west.
While many descendants of those tribes have since returned to the area, Oxendine says preserving the culture goes beyond just the tribes and he encourages everyone to learn more about America's original peoples.
"Learn about the culture! Continue to educate about the culture," Oxendine said. "Find out why, for instance, the river, the Maumee River, is a mispronunciation of a Native American word. It should be Mi-am-mi, and that's the Miami people, the tribe."
In 2019, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer first signed a proclamation statewide observation of Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Oxendine hopes Gov. Mike DeWine will soon follow suit to make it a state holiday in Ohio.