Hey There! Welcome to the first official blog post of Indigenous Women Rising. I’m Catherine Speaks, your host and I’m so excited to start this journey of blogging with you. It’s October. In New York City, Fall has officially begun and so has the stream of posts about apple picking, autumn leaves falling, pumpkin spice lattes and more. There’s one specific date on my calendar that I found myself incredibly excited for and that was October 8th. Although not recognized as a federal holiday by the whole of the country, it is still nonetheless Indigenous Peoples Day. The day formally marked by the egregious colonizer, Christopher Columbus.
I remember being in elementary school and learning about when “Christopher Columbus discovered the Indians”. First, let me explain that I attended a majority white public school in Nassau County, Long Island. I was about 5 or 6 and I remember raising my little hand and calmly saying, “Um, excuse me. He didn’t “discover” India. He ran into a group of Indigenous peoples in the Atlantic, and because they refused him gold, he raped, pillaged and massacred the people on their own homeland.” Needless to say, it didn’t go over too well and my teacher sent me to the Principals’ office because I “spoke out of turn”. My mother, the wonderful brown woman that she is, swooped in during dismissal after my long stint and asked, “Was any of what she said incorrect? No. So you’re going to penalize my brown child for your ineptitude and knowing her Indigenous history?” I went back to the classroom the next day feeling triumphant.
I realize and recognize that while many of us hopefully had these triumphant moments in response to White Supremacy, many of us didn’t or haven’t. Whatever your experience, your existence in this world is valid, is worthy of love and holding of space. In response to this, I thought it would be a healing opportunity to ask people what Indigenous Peoples Day means to them.
Take a look at some of the responses I got:
Sex Educator of IWR, Nicole Martin
Heyyy! Happy Indigenous Peoples Day, even though every day is Indigenous Peoples Day and I also wanted to say, “hold up that pin that says, Fuck Your White Beauty Standards”. The point of this is, what is Traditional Practice? How does it influence reproductive work that I am passionate about? For me, it (IDP) is about focusing on sex education because our bodies are sacred, sex is sacred. Not to get all radical but if you really think about it, you’re taking and sharing spirits and energies and with that is reclaiming your choice to share your spirit and energy with another person and to also be ready for what happens when you share your body with another person, right? There’s a lot of things, and a lot of factors that you take into perspective and sometimes if you have an unwanted pregnancy...way back when, we still had ways to induce pregnancies. Now it’s about reclaiming our ceremonies and teachings to help us talk about the sacredness of who we are.
Indigenous Peoples Day Means (Instagram Responses):
To represent and teach the next generation what tribe you belong to.
Being proud of myself and where I’m from!
Remembering the history of our ancestors & honoring and celebrating future generations
It means visibly, MINDFULLY living my day in awareness and respect of the prayers of my bloodlines, living and past.
Resilience. Roots. Respect. Reclaiming
Healing is coming and hope has remained!
Indigenous Peoples Day means that we are still here, we aren’t of the past. We have a bright future.
What incredible words! As I sat and collected all these responses, my heart felt incredibly warm and wonderful. We are still here. We are still growing and learning and existing.
On the actual day of October 8th I found myself up at the crack of dawn on a rainy day. I headed uptown Manhattan to Randalls Island, that sits on Lenapehoking, Land of the Lenape to go to an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration, held by Redhawk Native American Arts Council.
At first, there weren’t many people, and the air was full of a deep understanding and groundedness. As the day waned on, more and more people showed up to a nice medium sized crowd. Everyone had come together. Bonded by truth and traditions that showed that in the variety of Indigenuity, we survive. There were vendors galore. Beautifully crafted wares and lots of smudge smoke wafting from various tents. As I walked, I saw dentalium formed into necklaces, bracelets and earrings, ponchos made in traditional styles from South American tribes, wampum carved artfully, abalone shells that practically sparked, black hats with "Indigenous" sewn across the front and hoodies that sported "Abolish Columbus". No one could mistake the unmistakeable. Folx were gathered to celebrate. To remember. To be.
Some of the artists of the day that shared their love, talents and tradition were, Raye Zaragoza, Nahko Bear, Te Ao Mana, and so many more. Throughout the day, the main theme became that of water and life. The reality of fighting to protect the water became a heavy prayer and war cry in the air. I was reminded of a year ago when I watched the documentary RISE(which if you haven’t watched, you totally SHOULD!). The documentary is lead by Sarain Fox and documents the variety of Indigenous experience on Turtle Island. Our experiences are varied, and as we each fight to speak our individual truths and to work in service of mother earth, we collectively escalate toward a bright future.
This one day, I sat fulfilled in seeing so many strong, centered and beautiful womxn steeped in tradition. Present and alive. Speaking truth and love from a variety of ages. This particularly stuck out to me because of the reclamation of matriarchal ways that I slowly see happening in communities of black and brown people around me, as I do live in a metropolis that is constantly hustling and bustling. Indigenous Peoples Day is every day. Healing is every day. We are in fact, still here and still growing strong. Indigenous Women Rising is for me, a small hub of profound womxnhood that supports each other and our communities.
In closing today’s post, I send you love, groundedness, healing and smudge smoke. Please feel free to leave me a comment or two!