Indigenous Peoples Day celebration

T Clearwater

I enjoyed this year’s Indigenous Peoples Day in ways I never have before. Most significant to me over all is that I am part of the school’s Native American Student Association (NASA) and I really get to enjoy not just being around other Indigenous students in a passive way, but in an active way.  

For our celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day this year, we decided to hold a student panel. This year our group wonderfully has students not only from the United States, but also a student from South America who identifies as Indigenous. This furthered our desire to have student panel as we have decided to work with La Raza Unida in a year-long theme of “Bridging Borders.”  

Too often infighting occurs in Indigenous communities over our differences. We don’t celebrate our similarities or address our shared tragedies of colonialism. I think the division between North, Central and Southern Indigenous folks only furthers the colonialism mindset and it’s not healthy for our communities. So, I have been so very excited and happy to hear that this year is focusing on our unity. 

Our speaker on Indigenous Peoples Day was Forest Hill, the stepfather of one of NASA’s officers and the MC of the event, Adrianna Tom. He was greatly motivating, humbling and heartwarming to listen to. Hill, upon being requested to sing, speak and drum at the event, decided to write a new song devoted to the land that the school and city are on – Dejope. 

Not only were Hill and his group amazing but so was every student on our panel. We talked about some base information about ourselves as well as our dreams and aspirations. But we also talked about some heavier stuff. We knew already from meetings before that the members of NASA can easily cry together but we didn’t want that to be the takeaway from Indigenous Peoples Day.  

Every heavy comment was completely sincere, from our hopes in our education and communities to our real experiences with discrimination suffered in the educational system off our reservations or in countries where they don’t have reservations but instead heavily mixed communities all over. Our student from South America has shared with us that she had never been involved with reservations, as her country doesn’t have them. For her as an Indigenous person, being open about that part of herself can cause a lot of hurtful situations. Her experiences, just like the rest of our experiences, truly break my heart and I hope she can find community with us here in the U.S. 

A member of La Raza Unida, Luis Hernandez, also shared his thoughts on the event. 

“The Indigenous Peoples Day event was an important day for multiple members of La Raza Unida. Oftentimes we don’t talk enough about the intersectionality in both groups. It is important to remember that Latinx Americans can also be Indigenous people,” Hernandez said.  

“Indigenous people from Latinx countries need to be heard and known about because they also experience daily discrimination. All of our members are truly honored to have shared a stage with the members of NASA who spoke so bravely and confidently at the panel. We are excited to see what will come out of this newly formed bond that should be spoken more about. I believe this is a great first step towards unity.”