April 19th: From Indian Day to Indigenous Peoples Day 

The network owes much of its success to indigenous communities, whose contributions are indispensable. We are deeply grateful for the enriching opportunities to learn, collaborate, and build connections with various indigenous peoples in Brazil. That’s why we’ve prepared this informative post about this important date. We also asked indigenous members of our network to answer the following question: What does April 19th mean to you?

Author: Ana Carolina Cavalcanti

Leia em Português

On April 19, 1940, during the First Inter-American Indigenist Congress held in Patzcuaro, Mexico, the “Day of the Indian” emerged amidst struggles for the rights of indigenous peoples. Despite arising from resistance to recognize and remember the challenges faced by these communities, the term “Indian” harks back to the colonial period, which dehumanized and caricatured them. Thus, the continued use of this term contributes to perpetuating an oppressive idea that indigenous peoples are exotic and primitive beings. 

Consequently, the old “Indian Day” had its true meaning distorted and became, for a long time, a symbol of simplistic representations incapable of capturing the complexity of the various cultures and realities of these peoples. After years of struggle, there was a change from “Indian Day” to “Indigenous Peoples Day.” This change stemmed from a project by Joenia Wapichana (Rede-RR), which was initially vetoed by then-President Jair Bolsonaro (PL), but the decision was overturned by the National Congress and sanctioned by the former head of the executive on July 8, 2022. 

It is important that on April 19th, the Brazilian people understand this day not as a generic and caricatured Indian Day but as a moment to comprehend this change in nomenclature, reflecting how indigenous peoples have formed leadership, made demands, and reclaimed the true significance of this date. Thus, it stands as a clear example of resistance. 

What does April 19th mean to you?
  • Professor Alberto Terena
  • Chief Marciane
  • Jonas Guajajara
  • Luzia Cruwakwyj Kraho
  • Romulo Kambeba

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