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As we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we asked some of our staff at Native News Online and Tribal Business News to reflect on what the day means to them.

Darren Thompson  (Lac du Flambeau Tribe of Chippewa Indians)

Indigenous Peoples Day is an awakening to the truths our people have advocated for decades. It’s an honest solution to correct a false narrative of white supremacy that dehumanizes the voices of Indigenous peoples that is supported by Tribes, organizations, educators, jurisdictions, and governments.

Kristen Lilya (Bois Forte Band of Chippewa)

Growing up, I was always confused about the Columbus Day “Holiday.” I had questions like: Why is there a holiday for such a bad man? If he did these things, why do people look up to him? As I grew older, conversations arose about the topic with roommates, bosses, and coworkers, and no one really understood how I felt about the day. Our country has come a long way in just my lifetime, and for that,  I feel proud to be a Native American in 2022.

Chez Oxendine (Lumbee Tribe)

Indigenous People’s Day reminds me both how far we’ve come as Native folks and how far we’ve left to go. I find myself grateful for a day that acknowledges and honors the Native people still here, while at the same time grimacing every time I see “Columbus Day” stubbornly emblazoned across a small town paper’s front page. 

Native people find themselves in the national spotlight on issues like farming and climate change, in many cases leading the charge — but in others, we are categorized as “other,” not considered important enough to merit our own data point. 

To me, Indigenous People’s Day is a start — it’s a good start and a day to acknowledge one another and be grateful for our successes — but it’s just a start. The work of reminding the world we’re still here remains important all year-'round.

Monica Whitepigeon (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation)

We've entered into an exceptional era where we as Native people are utilizing various platforms to share and interpret our own stories. With that said, there is still a long way to go. We're witnessing the country going through this generations' growing pains. Social justice movements continue to increase, and equitable media coverage has potential to build awareness and instigate change. Many Indigenous stories, however, are still suppressed and misrepresented by non-Native news outlets. These outlets treat Native current events as an afterthought or are completely tone deaf to the necessity including our histories and experiences. America's narrative regarding Native peoples needs to change.  

At times, it feels like a never-ending cycle of injustice, but hope is hard to kill. People from many tribal nations are showing resistance to assimilation and working towards healing from the effects of our traumatic histories. Through the arts, Indigenous writers and artists are calling out racism and amplifying the diverse narratives of our numerous cultures. The weight of this burden cannot be put solely on Indigenous folks, non-Natives need to be educated, accurate representation, and willingness to be mindful of their blindspots.

Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) 

As people around this country celebrate the lost sailor, I’m not going to let it ruin my day. Instead, I’m going to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day with a smile because of the survival skills of our ancestors and the fact that we, the Indigenous peoples of this land, still remain.

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These stories must be heard.

This May, we are highlighting our coverage of Indian boarding schools and their generational impact on Native families and Native communities. Giving survivors of boarding schools and their descendants the opportunity to share their stories is an important step toward healing — not just because they are speaking, but because they are being heard. Their stories must be heard. Help our efforts to make sure Native stories and Native voices are heard in 2024. Please consider a recurring donation to help fund our ongoing coverage of Indian boarding schools. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

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