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.”
“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.
“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.
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
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