BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A Louisiana woman says the deeply rooted history of American Indians moved her to action three weeks ago when she contacted the office of Louisiana Governor John Bel. Edwards with a request for the state to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Baley Champagne, 27, says she received notice the governor would honor her request Wednesday, Sept. 11.
“It helps recognize us. We come from a very rich culture in our country and state, but we sometimes go unnoticed. We’re still here, but we’re not celebrated or recognized. We go unnoticed a lot. This proclamation brings a conversation, awareness, and recognition. We still see you,” said Champagne. “We’re not just in the history books.”
Champagne is of Native American descent, and says the conversation fostered on social media around inclusiveness for her often overlooked community pushed her to create real change.
“You don’t ever want to be a person who speaks for your community but doesn’t do anything,” Champagne said. “I feel a sense of change coming around. I follow a lot of pages that celebrate Native [American] culture. I asked myself ‘why wouldn’t [the governor sign the proclamation].’ To have the governor reply to me and actually do that, it says something."
Governor Edwards told WAFB the proclamation is just the latest effort his administration has undertaken to increase the visibility of Native Americans in Louisiana.
“I am proud to proclaim Indigenous Peoples’ Day to recognize the contributions of Native Americans in Louisiana.” said Gov. Edwards. “My administration has prioritized working with the tribes through our Office of Indian Affairs to award scholarships and establish the Native American Commission to ensure issues important to Native Americans in Louisiana get the attention they deserve.”
The proclamation notes a growing number of cities in the United States have recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a re-imaging to Columbus Day. The idea of Indigenous Peoples’ Day came about in Berkeley, California in 1992 when a celebration made residents question the Columbus “legacy.”
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is typically celebrated on the second Monday in October. In 2019, Indigenous Peoples’ Day will be recognized October 14.