On Monday, October 11, we will commemorate Indigenous Peoples' Day. On this day, we honor and celebrate Native American history and contemporary culture, much of which has roots here in Illinois. We choose to center indigenous communities in our commemoration to help combat the false narrative of 'discovery' of a land already occupied by over 10 million people, to amplify the history of harm inflicted on generations of Native peoples, and to further illustrate how systemic racism has impacted our country.
We all must continue efforts to seek truth and reconciliation, to infuse peace, and to reflect upon and celebrate the tremendous contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples on Indigenous Peoples Day, as well as every day throughout the year.
It's difficult to acknowledge the State of Illinois has a violent history of racism and oppression, actively participating in the genocide and removal by force of Native tribes including the Chippewa, Delaware, Fox, Illinois, Iowa, Iroquois, Kaskaskia, Peoria, Potawatomi, and Winnebago. Buoyed by our commitment to advancing equity and racial justice, we must continue the work to dismantle systems that uphold racism and oppression, and actively share the rich history of our country.
Did you know...
- Illinois is home to a number of sacred Native American sites, from abandoned cities/villages to burial mounds, including Cahokia Mounds in East St. Louis.
- The first urban Indian Center in the country was the American Indian Center of Chicago. Established in 1953, it has a long history of serving American Indians and helping Native families cope with the transition from reservation to urban life.
- Secretary Deb Haaland is the first Native American named as a cabinet secretary, serving as the Secretary of the Interior in the Biden administration. Prior to that, after running for New Mexico Lieutenant Governor in 2014, she was the first Native American woman to be elected to lead a State Party. She is 35th generation New Mexican.
- Native Americans embody a history of activism, from organizing for the civil rights of Native Americans in the 1960s to the present-day water protectors. Much of their activism serves to bring attention to the ongoing struggle for sovereignty and for resources to help their communities fight the brutality of racism and poverty.
There are many ways to learn about Indigenous history, culture, and activism. I encourage all of us to take some time this Indigenous Peoples' Day to explore a few of them:
Grace B. Hou