Indigenous People’s Day: First take back the day, then your land
Shireen Hakim, MS, MPH
I am celebrating today, on October 9th, 2017. Even my brother, who ignores pagan- originated holidays like Halloween and birthdays, agreed we should decorate the house today. Why? Because as of September 21 2017 in Los Angeles, California, October 9th is Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day! Finally the right side of history is recognized. And the day can be just the beginning of retributions, with the right planning and organizing. It started in Berkeley, California 20 years ago, and is also celebrated in Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont, (South Dakota celebrates Native American day), and cities like Phoenix, Seattle, and Denver.
Indigenous people of the United States deserve to be celebrated, not only because they were the original inhabitants of this land, but also because they contribute valuable principles. They embrace harmony with nature and other humans, by maintaining a peaceful and respectful existence with all living things. “Modern” society has clashed with them because of our unfortunate thirst for material success, and has subsequently pushed them to the sidelines of society, leaving them in barren, isolated communities with little access to careers and education. This is a drastic change from their flourishing lives they chose to live before Westerners arrived. More than acknowledging the lives they once led, we need to help them lives those lives again.
Natives are the human embodiment of nature. They call animals their brothers, and they say they are in charge of protecting the land and air that the Creator blessed with us. Harming indigenous people symbolizes modern man’s disregard and abuse to nature, which we need for survival. I’ve heard people say indigenous people are “dumb” for centering their lives around nature. Are they? When they were in charge of this land people were healthy and animals flourished in numbers. Look at us now: everywhere you look a family member or friend has cancer, and many animals are extinct or endangered. Xochitl Galvez, an indigenous Cabinet member in Mexico, wisely suggests empowering Natives by utilizing their strengths in “traditional medicine, organic farming, etc so they thrive not integrate (Los Angeles Times Feb 2001). Maybe what we really need is collaborate with those who know the most about planet Earth, so that we can restore it to its optimum level. This is actively going on in the Amazon, and should be practiced in the US as well. This intense issue could be a blessing in disguise to wake us up to an invaluable community that has been ignored for so long. Nature is beneficial to us in many ways, it is scientifically proven that the high vibrations from nature are healing.
Just because a victimized group is silent, doesn’t mean it’s okay to turn away from their neglect. And it doesn’t mean they are not suffering. Indigenous populations around the world, namely in the US, Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, and Australia, have for the most part stoically adapted and accepted their ill fate as cast off members of society. But does that mean we can continue to ignore them?
The African-American population serves as an admirable example of what Native Americans can achieve, a once abused, marginalized minority group that is now organized and active-politically, economically, and socially. And because of that, they are respected and acknowledged. They voice their concerns and opinions, and so they are met.
Lastly, to the Indigenous people: People treat you as you let yourself be treated. Please come to the forefront, to community hearings, press conferences. (As you are forced to do because of the heinous pipeline constructions.) A little anger, some indignation is okay, and probably necessary to get your points across. Pity may get you donations, but what you eventually want is autonomy. You should be able to practice life as you previously did, traveling and cultivating the land. There is no reason you shouldn’t ask for it. Don’t let Americans keep you confined in one area, because that is the way they live. Know what your expectations are moving forward. Continue uniting as one community by brandishing the centuries-old tribal rivalries. Most importantly, stay visible to “modern” society and teach us what we need to know about our environment so that it flourishes again. We won’t know what you don’t tell us. Our forefathers may have ignored you, but we are listening now.