Why is Indigenous Peoples Day so important? 

Courtesy Lee Dingus

By Lee Dingus, a Pittsburgh based Haudenosaunee – Seneca artist and educator, Founder of Echoes of the Four Directions

Why is Indigenous Peoples Day so important? 

Indigenous People’s Day recognizes the resilience of my ancestors and the legacy I carry with me, my grandmothers. It is a day dedicated to the impact colonialism had on my family and  many others 

On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I want to honor our sovereignty, resilience, and countless  contributions that we have made to the world. I also want to remind everyone that all of 574  Federally recognized tribes we are all sovereign Nations, I ask that everyone uphold our solemn  trust and treaty responsibilities to all of our Nations and that everyone from all governments to  individuals work with us in strengthening our Nation-to-Nation ties. I ask that you acknowledge whose land you are on and respect that land and our people. 

History and Contemporary Culture

Indigenous Peoples day is a chance for everyone to celebrate our history and interact and learn from us as a contemporary people 

Indigenous Peoples Day can be a chance for you to share our culture and traditions, and for others to build their knowledge of Indigenous groups in our area and all over Turtle Island, and  give everyone time to reflect on the struggles our communities face. Exposure builds  tolerance, which leads to acceptance. This goes for everyone. It is also a day to bring attention  to some the biggest issues we have as a people. 

Indigenous Peoples day helps bring attention to some of the ways  Indigenous peoples are discriminated against and are disproportionately  affected by climate change, gender violence and health issues, as well as the  way our Indigenous lands are affected by mining, drilling and both public  and private projects. From pipelines and fracking projects running through  our territories” and “the ongoing and disproportionate violence directed at  Indigenous people, especially women, girls and trans.” 

Violence Unacknowledged

“MMIW” (Murdered Missing and Indigenous Women) is the movement  working on helping our sisters. We need to bring our sisters back home and  stop the abuse and human trafficking, that Indigenous people suffer more  than any other population. 

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 “LANDBACK” is a movement that is striving to help us regain our  autonomy and sovereignty so we can control our own destiny and completely regain our access to our sacred sites so that we can celebrate and use our  Religious Freedom to celebrate and honor our traditions.  

“Every Child Matters” is a movement to bring attention to our lost children,  so that we can get them back home. On Turtle Island, the Residential  Schools and Boarding schools in the USA and Canada put approx 150,000  children in these schools. But of that count; approximately 4200 , died and  or were murdered at those schools. That count is rising everyday. Those  4200 plus children died or were murdered by the US Government, the  Canadian government and Catholic Church. Those children were then tossed  into unmarked graves and even mass graves. Everyday we find more and  more of children that have to be returned to their families. 

This time of year; fall and winter brings the trifecta of concerns to light.  Columbus day, Halloween, and sports; Especially football – (but all sports) which bring up mascot issues. This is a time of year I both dread and look  forward to. I dread it because of the all the cringe I have to deal with it, But then I remember I am an educator, and then I know I have to welcome the  chance to reach our and make a difference. 

Modern Challenges

Indigenous People’s Day is also a day of celebration of the strength of modern-day Indigenous people. I use the past as a motivator to continue  to follow my dreams and fight for what I believe in. There are many stereotypes that we have to face and deal with on a daily basis. They are my challenges. 

To this day, we deal with systemic racism and the consequences of colonization  as a result of a loss of some of cultures that leads to depression, and elevated  levels of alcoholism, to name a few of the challenges we face. We as Indigenous  people often feel invisible to the larger society, as women are also  disproportionately disappearing, and no one seems to notice or care as in MMIW.  America has continued to disrespect Indigenous Peoples by polluting our lands and  rivers that we share a spiritual connection with, and even defiling our sacred  mountain, Mount Rushmore, with the images of American leaders that represent  colonialism and the genocide of our people. As well lack of acknowledgment. 


In conclusion for Indigenous Peoples Day, I ask that you become our ally. That YOU  recognize the privilege that settler cultures have and take for granted. It also implies that you  challenge and work towards breaking down those barriers that continue to violate Indigenous communities. Being an ally requires social action, strength, courage, humility and a support  network. We ask that you Collaborate with Indigenous communities is critical for climate  resilience. Indigenous nations in America have lost nearly 99% of our historical land use over  time. In Washington state alone, tribal communities occupy just 7% of land or 3.2 million acres  of nearly 50 million. Pennsylvania; Indigenous communities now occupy ZERO percent of our  original tribal land. 

Finally, I thank Sue for persistence, and commitment to helping all marginalized people. When  she asked me to a guest article. I was honored. Sue fights the fight all day long and is a great  voice for all people. I consider Sue a friend and an ally. We all need each others voices to help  those who sometimes can not speak for themselves.  

On this Indigenous Peoples day I ask that more of you out their become our ally. Nya:weh (Thank You) 

Lenora “Lee” Dingus  

Haudenosaunee – Seneca

Echoes of the Four Directions


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