Land Day Commemorated at National Museum of American Indian

By Najjab, Jamal | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2008 | Go to article overview

Land Day Commemorated at National Museum of American Indian


Najjab, Jamal, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


THE AMERICAN-ARAB Anti-Discrimination Committee Washington, DC Area Chapter (ADC-DC) commemorated the 32nd anniversary of Yom al-Ard, or Land Day, in a novel way. ADC-DC members and friends gathered on March 30 at the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall to learn about the culture and history of the indigenous people who were here before and after the United States was founded.

Land Day is held every year in remembrance of the loss of Palestinian lives and land. What better way to remember than to be in a place which tells the story of how the Native Americans lost the same precious gifts?

Museum tour guide Jose Montano led the group up to the fourth floor to view an exhibit entitled "Peace Treaties, Bibles and Guns." The U.S. government made 300 peace treaties with the different Native American nations, Montano told his listeners, but in the end the Americans broke every one of them. "The Spanish had a Bible in one hand and a weapon in the other," Montano said, referring to the Conquistadors who came to the so-called "New World." Behind Montano was a wall on which were mounted dozens of rifles, two of which had belonged to Sitting Bull, who used them to defend his land from the Americans. In the end he was defeated, and died on a reservation far from his home.

According to Montano, before the Europeans arrived in the Americas there were already more than 600 nations of indigenous people, speaking 175 different languages. Only 20 of those languages survive today. "Native people continue to struggle for their rights and land," Montano said. He told the story of his grandfather, who fought to keep his tribe's land in Bolivia. In the end, his people lost their battle.

During the tour, long-time Arab-American activist Dr. Nader Ayish noticed a blown-up photo taken long ago of a Native American woman in New Mexico with a clay jug on her head.

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