Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which is part of a broader movement to address the erasure of Indigenous peoples and recognize the contributions, cultures, and resilience of Indigenous peoples in our country and around the world.
Launch’s work occurs on unceded Coast Salish land and the homelands of the Duwamish people, and we honor the Indigenous people past and present who have lived and worked on this land since time immemorial. It’s important to understand the history that has brought us to live and work on these lands, and understand our individual and collective place in that history. Colonialism is a current, ongoing process, and we must all be mindful of our present participation.
While we incorporate learning about difference cultures and experiences throughout the year at Launch (because Indigenous history and cultures should be taught and celebrated year-round), Indigenous Peoples’ Day and next month’s Native American Heritage Month are an opportunity for Launch teachers and students to deepen our understanding and learning of Indigenous peoples, cultures, history, and contemporary experiences in Puget Sound, the U.S., and around the world. Teachers have a vital role to play in dismantling the false myths many children still learn about the history and present status of Native Americans.
This year’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day takes place in the context of the discovery of mass graves of Indigenous children found on residential schools in Canada, the impact of COVID-19 on native communities, environmental damage to tribal communities, and an epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous women.
But the story of Native people in the U.S. is much more than a story of attempted genocide, forced assimilation, the erosion of cultures and languages, and infringement on Native sovereignty. It also includes resilience, strength, and many contributions to our society. By celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we honor and uplift the voices and experiences of Indigenous people and the rich diversity of our community.
As the Burke Museum shares, “Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day is an important date. It is a day of reflection and opportunity to lift up and elevate voices that have been silenced for generations. It is an opportunity to support a tribal business, artist, or restaurant. It is a chance to be familiar with whose land you share. It is also important to be mindful of the costume choices we make. It is time to think of how stereotypes are perpetuated. It is a time to discontinue the erasure of tribal communities and cultures.”
I encourage all of us to use this holiday as an opportunity to deepen our learning and take action in support of Indigenous peoples in Puget Sound and around the world. Below are some resources to help you get started.
Dr. Angela Griffin, CEO