Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Columbus Statues, and Works by Artist Joe Harjo

by Christopher Blay October 12, 2020
Head Removed From Christopher Columbus Statue In North End Of Boston

Head removed from a Christopher Columbus statue in Boston

As reported in The Washington Post on June 10, statues of Christopher Columbus were either removed or otherwise destroyed in the weeks that followed the killing of George Floyd on May 25 of this year. Just yesterday, in Portland, statues of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were pulled down in protest of the annual Columbus Day federal holiday.

People stand around the toppled Christopher Columbus statue at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul Wednesday.Evan Frost,MPR News

A toppled Christopher Columbus statue at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. Photo via Evan Frost, MPR News

 A protester stands over a toppled statue of Theodore Rosevelt during a protest Sunday in Portland, Oregon. Photograph- Nathan Howard/Getty Images

A protester stands over a toppled statue of Theodore Rosevelt during a protest Sunday in Portland, Oregon. Photograph: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

As we roll into the fall, and the first observance of Columbus Day since our summer of racial awakening, several Texas cities, including Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and just 10 days ago, Houston, have passed proclamations declaring today, the second Monday in October, Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In Fort Worth, it is Indigenous Peoples’ Week.

Here in Houston, the unofficial holiday will be celebrated alongside Columbus Day, whereas in cities like Austin, Columbus Day has been replaced with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, these Texas cities are among some 130 others that have made today, October 12 an observance of Native peoples of the Americas. Fourteen states, including Alabama, Alaska, Hawai’i, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia have as well.


Postcommodity, Let Us Pray For the Water Between Us, 2020. 2200 gallon polyethylene hazmat chemical storage container, brushless linear motor, leather mallet, wood, steel, aircraft cable, algorithmic composition. Commissioned by Minneapolis Institute of Art. Installation view, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN.

In honor of First Nations, Native American, and Indigenous people who are also artists, we present some of the works these artists are making. While some, like Postcommodity and Sky Hopkina are working outside of Texas, we recognize them (go here for an article on Postcommodity by Glasstire’s Christina Rees), along with Texas-based artist Joe Harjo, who was recently awarded a Blue Star Contemporary Berlin Residency (in March). We have profiled Harjo and reviewed his work in recent years. The award-winning artist has also been featured in our Top Five series of videos.


Joe Harjo, Let Us Pray, 2019. Photograph. 40 x 27 x 4 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Below are images from Harjo’s series Indian Performance Prints, about which he writes are “…Prints recording a contemporary Indian, myself, carrying out many of the same routines and rituals as the majority of Americans in the 21st century (taking a shower, watching porn…etc.) and commenting on aspects of the universality of contemporary social identity in the United States.”

"Indian Checking Facebook." 2012. From Harjo's "Indian Performance Prints series."

From Joe Harjo’s Indian Performance Prints series: “Indian Checking Facebook.” 2012.


"Indian Drinking A Mexican Coke." 2012. From Harjo's "Indian Performance Prints."

Joe Harjo, “Indian Drinking A Mexican Coke.” 2012. From Harjo’s Indian Performance Prints.


"Indian Taking A Shower." 2012. From Harjo's "Indian Performance Prints."

Joe Harjo, “Indian Taking A Shower.” 2012. From Harjo’s Indian Performance Prints.


"Indian Standing In This Exact Spot Looking At Contemporary Native American Art II (performance still)." 2012. From Harjo's "Indian Performance Prints."

“Indian Standing In This Exact Spot Looking At Contemporary Native American Art II (performance still).” 2012. From Harjo’s series Indian Performance Prints.


For more on artist Joe Harjo, please go here.


Joe Harjo (b.1973 Oklahoma City, OK) is a multidisciplinary artist from the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma and is currently working and teaching in San Antonio, TX. He holds a BFA in Visual Arts from the University of Central Oklahoma and an MFA from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

 His work uncovers the lack of visibility of Native culture, lived experience and identity in America, due to both the absence of proper representation in mainstream culture and the undermining of Native belief systems. He confronts the misrepresentation and appropriation of Native culture and identity, initiating a call for change.

 Recent exhibitions include: The Only Certain Way, Sala Diaz, San Antonio, TX; Texas, We’re Listening, Brownsville Museum of Art, Brownsville, TX; We’re Still Here: Native American Artists Then and Now, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX; Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists in the Path of the Butterfly, Blue Star Contemporary, San Antonio, TX, Reimagining the Third Space, KCAI Crossroads Gallery: Center for Contemporary Practice, Kansas City, Missouri, re/thinking photography: Conceptual Photography from Texas, FotoFest, Houston, Texas.

 Harjo is a board member of the Muscogee Arts Association, a nonprofit organization that advocates for living Muscogee artists. He is a 2020-2021 Harpo Foundation Native American Residency Fellow and a recipient of the 2020-2021 Blue Star Contemporary Berlin Residency hosted by Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Germany. He is the Chair of Photography at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, TX.

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Leroy Pena June 19, 2021 - 17:06

Make that 15 states. Texas Governor Greg Abbott just signed HCR62 for Indigenous People’s Day in Texas.


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