Indigenous Peoples’ Day. October 11. It’s who I pay homage to today. I am proud to say that my home city of Saint Paul and my home state of Minnesota have designated today as a day to celebrate this. The land on which I have lived all of my life belongs to those who first lived here. Likely you reside on similar land if you live in the U.S., Canada, or one of the many other countries originally inhabited by an Indigenous population. Population and People’s are terms which really don’t convey that I am talking about other human beings.
I have been fortunate that for many years, my genealogical and historical research and consulting business has been largely involved with various Indigenous tribes, bands, and communities in the United States. Reading original records in locations of the U.S. National Archives, state archives and historical societies, courthouses, and other repositories provided me with a history I never learned in school.
Tears have been shed as I read horrific comments made by ministers, storekeepers, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) personnel, and others supposedly entrusted to look out for those under their supervision. Yes, supervision. The BIA and its predecessors deigned to anoint itself as the keepers of fellow human beings. Oh, let’s make the Indians become like white men. Let’s make sure they cut their hair, wear different clothing, refrain from special ceremonies, and no longer speak their language. It was also Congress and most Presidents that aided this.
Newspapers printed stories that were one-sided. Imagine that!
My own background does not include any Indigenous heritage. I do have ancestors from 8 other countries, and I am proud of that and that they were able to immigrate to the U.S. The mix of religious affiliations is mind-boggling. Like me, some with their proud Indigenous heritage have a mix of backgrounds, religions, and often, a mix of tribes. This has been a day for us all to think, care, and learn.
© 2021, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.