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Indigenous Peoples' Day

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

Mer Young via

Indigenous People's Day is a movement to celebrate the history, ingenuity, contributions, culture, and resilience of Indigenous peoples. There are no official guidelines or rules for how to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day. For people like myself, who are privileged to be given the day off from work, I am using the time to reflect on the history of the land I currently reside and work and my responsibilities as a settler on stolen Lisjan Ohlone land. I thank you in advance for reading some of the ways I am learning and celebrating the history, excellence, resilience, and contributions of Indigenous Peoples'.

Listening to the perspectives and stories of Indigenous people by centering their voices in my understanding of *history. Growing up in the 1980 and 1990's, my school curriculum like many others, erased or minimized the significant harm caused by the violent displacement and forced assimilation of indigenous people across the United States. Unfortunately, this is a manifestation of systematic oppression and means that there is a knowledge gap for myself and peer educators who grew up during this time or in schools with inadequate history curriculum. Indigenous lawmaker Rep. Tawna Sanchez is quoted as saying, "History is always written by the conqueror. How do we actually tell the truth about what happened and where we sit this very moment? How do we go forward from here?" I plan to ask myself the same questions as I strive to do better and act with informed intention. *Resources at the end of the post

Reflecting about "home" using prompts authored by Indigenous people. The following exercise is "for non-native people to learn and reflect on the history and current struggles of Indigenous people, and to begin thinking about our role in colonization and decolonization."

Authored by: Qwul’sih’yah’maht, Robina Thomas (Lyackson of the Coast Salish Nation) with input from Corrina Gould (Chochenyo and Johnella LaRose (Shoshone-Bannock), Nick Tilsen (Oglala-Lakota), Annie Morgan Banks and Chanelle Gallant."

Revisiting the importance of Land Acknowledgements as outlined by the Indigenous team at Native Land Digital who creates educational materials like maps and educational guides, with hopes that their work inspires "people to gain a better understanding of themselves, their ancestors, and the world they live in so that we can all move forward into a better future." Where I live, in the East Bay, the Ohlone people have no land base. People who live, learn and work in my neighborhood and East Bay community are doing so on traditional Ohlone land. This matters because, "the civic infrastructure, the economic system, the private development and the consumption of natural resources in our society are all connected to and in different ways built upon the colonial occupation of this land and the violent displacement of the Ohlone." This piece on Lisjan (Ohlone) History & Territory from Sogorea Te's website is an important read.

Sogorea Te’ Land Trust is based in Huchiun, in unceded Lisjan territory, what is now known as Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Piedmont, Emeryville and Albany, California.

Committing to continuous action such as paying shuumi land tax annually and showing up for indigenous people in my community when requested.

"Paying the Shuumi Land Tax is a small way to acknowledge this history and contribute to its healing, to support the Ohlone community’s current work to create a vibrant future." It's important to remember that, "No amount of money will undo the damage that’s been done, will bring back the lost lives or erase the suffering of the people. But this is a step in a long-term process of healing, a small way you can, right now, participate in a movement to support the self determination and sovereignty of the local Indigenous community." (Sogorea Te' Land Trust, website)

In closing, it's significant to note that the year 2021 is the first time a U.S. President has officially recognized Indigenous Peoples' Day. President Joe Biden issued a proclamation on October 8, 2021, stating that "On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, our Nation celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the Federal Government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations." This marks the first time a U.S President also acknowledged the "centuries-long campaign of violence, displacement, assimilation, and terror wrought upon Native communities and Tribal Nations throughout our country."

It took hundreds of years for a US President to make such a proclamation. To me, this signals a small move towards honesty and reconciliation. It makes me hopeful that more of us will contribute to the movement and make it a priority to honor Indigenous people every day through big and small actions. My intent in writing and sharing this post is to create an access point for further discussion and collaborative action; I invite you to stay in touch and continue the work together.

Thank you for reading and reflecting with me. I'm grateful to be in community with you.


Additional Resources



  • Indigenous People’s History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

  • California through Native Eyes, by William J. Bauer, Jr.

  • Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery by Mark Charles

  • An American Genocide, The US and the California Indian Catastrophe by Benjamin Madley

Ohlone (East Bay):


All My Relations Podcast What does it mean to be a Native person? This is one question that’s explored artistically throughout the All MyRelations podcast. Co-hosts Matika Wilbur (Tulalip and Swinomish) and Adrienne Keene (CherokeeNation) journeys through the complex representations of Native people in today's culture, discussing topics on misused stereotypes, Nativeappropriations and decolonizing sex. It’s an eye-opening display that amplifies the Native American voice.

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