LUNA on the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

2019’s Indigenous People’s Day Celebration featured Oneida Nation dancers showcasing various traditional dances.

Photo by Sarah Navy

Indigenous Peoples’ Day has become an important part of the Lawrence community and culture. Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes, and honors the beautiful cultures, traditions and lives of Indigeous People around the world. At Lawrence, LUNA (Lawrence University Native American Organization) has annually celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day through a Pow-wow demonstration followed by a dinner of Indigenous cuisine. This celebration on Lawrence’s campus serves as an event that celebrates Indigeneity and educates the campus and community on why Indigenous Peoples’ Day is such an important day for Indigenous people. For Indigenous People, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is used to combat and reverse the colonial erasure of celebrating “Columbus Day.” By celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we draw attention to the trauma, broken treaties, broken promises and erasure brought by the celebration of Christopher Columbus. Prior to his arrival, Indigenous people were self-sufficient, thriving and successful communities that sustained and created life thousands of years. 

Although Indigenous people and communities have endured monumental losses and grief to our land, our people and culture, we remain resilient. Indigneous people and our cultures are still alive, and should be celebrated to say loudly and proudly, “I am here. I am Indigenous. And I am beautiful.” While this day is a day of joyous celebration, is it also a reminder. A reminder of the colonization of Native America and the world. A reminder of the pain and suffering Indigenous people suffered and continue to suffer. A reminder that despite all the leaps and bounds of democracy and equality, Indigenous people are not only not free nor represented, but still actively repressed. Every Indigenous person should be able to say and show every day, “I am here. I am Indigenous. And I am beautiful.” But they are not allowed to. 

From barring students from wearing regalia or feathers on their graduation caps, to the apathy shown throughout every crisis like MissingMurderedIndigenousWomen&Girls and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic, Indigenous people have had to fight for recognition and basic human rights. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is important not just because it is a place for Indigenous people to celebrate, but because we must continue to remind everyone that Indigenous people are here. That we, Indigenous and allies alike, remember the broken treaties and promises. That we hold every senator, court justice, industry, and person accountable for the promise of equal representation and equality. 

We MUST celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day for those who are gone, those who are here, and those who will be. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is so much more than a day, and we are counting on everyone to make that known. To stand beside Indigenous people and say, “You are here. We see and respect you for your Indigeneity because you are beautiful.” 

Please join us in celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year on Oct 12 by watching our Indigenous Peoples’ Day video. This year, Ben Grignon, a local teacher at Menomenee Indian High School in Keshena, WI, will be giving a speech in the online video. The video can be found on the Diversity and Intercultural Center’s Upcoming Events page at this link: https://www.lawrence.edu/students/diversity/events-

Jessica Hopkins and Taneya Garcia are the Lawrence University Native American Organization (LUNA) President and LUNA Vice President.

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