Little Thunders — Everyday is Indigenous Peoples Day
- Published: October 13, 2021
Monday, Oct. 11, was Indigenous Peoples Day, and I offer a reflection.
While Yellow Springs officially recognized the day in 2016, this year, President Biden issued a proclamation officially recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day, making him the first U.S. president to do so, even though the idea was created in 1977. This day, formerly known as Columbus Day, is specifically to right the wrongs of history. It is to dispel the myth of discovery, of manifest destiny, and to dismantle the ongoing colonial project.
Today, Indigenous people are reclaiming our history, knowledge and teachings and owning our narratives so that we may uplift our communities and pass on our legacies to the next generation of leaders. For 2021, the Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition put together an all-Indigenous art show, hosted some guest speakers and held a potluck. Here in our village, Yellow Springs Speaking Up for Justice helped to amplify Indigenous-led celebrations and plans to hold an event in November for Native American Heritage Month — hopefully with the involvement of our local public schools.
These celebratory events are important. There are many Indigenous people here in Yellow Springs, who have been raised here and who call this place home, from many Nations, including Anishinaabe, Kiowa, Shawnee, Taino, Miamian, Lakota, Black-Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous and many more. There are Indigenous children here today who are in need of their community lifting them up from the firestorm of hate they see every day and all around them.
Some examples of the outside forces include the Indian mascots in public schools, dressing up or “playing Indian,” and the ongoing stealing of our land, misuse of our medicines and the appropriation of our closed spiritual practices. There are networks of predators who constantly threaten and harm Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people. The experience of colonization on Indigenous people has had devastating impacts around the world and Yellow Springs is no different. The negative psychological effect from colonization and feeling invisible is well documented in our Indigenous communities.
In the most recent census, 2.9% of the U.S. population identified as Native American. Our population is growing, not shrinking — and yet, we are under-represented in nearly all platforms, from media to government office. Celebration on Indigenous Peoples’ Day helps Indigenous people to engage with non-natives about issues that are important to us, to engage in dialogue and to be a contemporary part of our collective culture. As more schools and cities celebrate, it opens dialogue and helps to create a safer and healthier environment for all.
On Monday, Oct. 11, Ben Barns, Chief of the Shawnee, sent a message to Indigenous people living in Ohio. He wrote:
“Go out and proselytize to your fellow non-natives when the chance presents itself. Ask them to be of a curious mind, and ask the Indigenous and historic stewards of these places about what is right. Tell them: “Do not profit off of us. We are not to be consumed whole. I hope our non-native relatives realize we are tired of being a commodity, exhausted by being ordered with Coke and a side of fries. We are humans. Our existence is not for your entertainment, fauxstalgia or empty genuflections. This is Indigenous Peoples Day. We have things to say and not all of it is going to be comfortable.”
Yellow Springs is stolen land. Since time immemorial, this land was stewarded by the Shawnee and other visiting Nations, creating great gardens and manicured forests. The roads that run down the center of the village were first paved by the Indigenous people — led by Tecumseh. The sacred waters here were for ceremony; the mounds were sacred. If you live here, you must understand this, reflect and give service to the land.
Our Indigenous future is bright — I want our whole village to get to know and understand the beauty and diversity of Indigenous people, hold a conversation and support the existence and resilience of Indigenous cultures.
*The writer belongs to the Anishinaabe people from White Earth Nation and is an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe from the Ottertail Pillager Band of Indians.