On Oct. 10, people in Chapel Hill and across the state of North Carolina celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day through events and education.
President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2021. In this year’s proclamation, Biden said that Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a time to “honor the sovereignty, resilience and immense contributions that Native Americans have made to the world.”
Evynn Richardson, a sophomore student at UNC and a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe, said she celebrated alongside the Carolina Indian Circle, American Indian Center and UNC Indigenous staff by coming together to eat, enjoy fellowship and build community.
Dalton Locklear, the vice president of the CIC and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, said that in addition to the gathering, the CIC partnered with the AIC to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day by handing out tobacco and prayer bundles across campus.
“It's important to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day because it's essential to recognize that this is stolen land and to uplift Indigenous voices – especially if you’re Carolina, which is a public PWI,” he said.
Locklear said he did not think the University did enough to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, due to the fact that the University did not send out a statement recognizing the day.
Richardson also said the University has not done enough to recognize and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and that the expectation is that only Indigenous people celebrate the day, rather than everyone.
Richardson said one of the best ways to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day is by finding out whose land you occupy.
“If you do illegally occupy stolen land, you are benefiting from the atrocities that happened to Indigenous people, so the least you can do is learn whose land you occupy,” she said.
The University occupies land in the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation land.
Polly Cox, a member of the Lumbee Tribe and a volunteer for the Guilford Native American Association, said she celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day by trying to educate the community.
She said it is important to inform people on this day because the U.S. has not been truthful when it comes to Native Americans and has sugarcoated their true history.
Cox said that, while the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day fills her with pride, there is still more that can be done by the government.
“I think there needs to be more, honestly,” Cox said. “I think I would love to have Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognized as a federal holiday.”
Cox said that some ways non-Indigenous people can be allies to Indigenous people are through supporting Native American-owned businesses and going to local Native American museums.
“I'm appreciative that we do have Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but we are here 365 days out of the year, and don’t just think of us on one day, but think of us throughout the whole year,” Cox said.
Dalton said that it is crucial that people ensure that they are uplifting Indigenous voices in spaces that they otherwise wouldn't occupy.
“Being Indigenous means celebrating something that was given to me by my ancestors,” he said. “It means taking our traditional practices and putting them to use in the modern-day world, celebrating the land that I'm standing on and acknowledging the cultures of the people whose land I’m standing on.”
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