PEOPLE Bianca Rivera Heights resident pushes Houston community to honor its Indigenous history G rowing up in the Northside, Bianca Rivera thought of herself, as with many of
THE HISTORY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY
BY EMMA WHALEN
The rst recorded Columbus Day celebration occurs Oct. 12. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt names Columbus Day a national holiday. Columbus Day is designated as the second Monday in October. Native American activist John Curl recommends the United Nations recognize Oct. 12 as Indigenous Peoples Day. Berkeley, California, recognizes the rst ocial Indigenous Peoples Day.
not make the day a city holiday but recognizes it on the same day as the federally recognized Columbus Day. Rivera and other Native American groups have been advocating for this recognition for years. She said she gained an added sense of urgency after the recent death of Enrique Hynes, an elder of the Carrizo- Coahuiltecan nation of Texas. Rivera said Houston’s acknowledgement
her neighbors, as Tejana, a Mexican American. But her great-great-grand- mother had hinted there was more to her family’s story. “My mom said her great grandma ... used to whisper to her at night when she’d go to sleep, ‘If you want to
nd our people, they’re all up in Oklahoma,” she said. It was not until she was an adult that Rivera, who also goes by Abuela M’api Rainowa,
of Native history through Indige- nous Peoples Day and the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue at Bell Park is the starting point—not the endgame—
“I HOPE I CANBE A LIVING TESTIMONY FOR PEOPLE TO FEEL GOODABOUT THEMSELVES ANDKNOW WHO THEYARE.” BIANCA RIVERA
The United Nations marks Aug. 9 as International
Bianca Rivera founded Houston Aztec Dance Group and educates Houstonians about Indigenous history. (Courtesy Virginia C. Fairchild)
Day of theWorld’s Indigenous People.
began to research her heritage more closely. Eventually, she found census records of her family members from the early 1800s with the descriptor “Indian” crossed out and replaced with Hispanic. “We had to pick,” she said. “There was no way they were going to call us Texans because we were not of Euro- pean descent. So we became Mexican to survive.” often-overlooked Indigenous roots. In September, her advocacy led Houston to ocially recognize the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day. Council members voted 14-2 Sept. 30 to support the measure, which does Now, Rivera helps educate Houstonians about the city’s
when educating the public. She continues her work with
Houston Aztec Dance Group, also called Calmecac Tonantzin Yolili- tzyotl, which leads dances and drum circles in parks in the Northside, East End and at Bualo Bayou Park. The group also visits Houston ISD to reach students who may not know about their city’s or even their family’s Native history. “I’m grateful that I found out enough about it for myself,” she said. “I hope to be a living testimony for other people to feel good about themselves and knowwho they are because there is a war inside of us. ... The common root is that we may have been colonized by Spaniards ... but the original root is Native American.”
2020 Houston recognizes the secondMonday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, joining dozens of other U.S. cities.
Houston Aztec Dance Group works with local schools. (Courtesy Houston Aztec Dance Group)
HEIGHTS RIVER OAKS MONTROSE EDITION • NOVEMBER 2020
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