Written by Dynasty Ceasar, Racial Justice Trainer, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
In the wake of Indigenous People’s Day it would be easy to focus our energy on discussing the turmoil that was caused by Christopher Columbus. It would be equivalent to the effortlessness that comes with talking to a family member who shares the same negative response that you have toward a relative who always causes a ruckus at family gatherings.
Choosing to focus on Columbus, however, further perpetuates white supremacy as it centers the white experience in America. This article seeks to do the opposite. I dedicate this space to Indigenous people who have chosen not to assimilate and those who were forced to. For those who are urban Indians, those who live on reservations, and those who have liberated themselves from all aspects of colonization.
I challenge the reader to transcend the limits of a colonizer’s perspective.
We pay homage to those who fought to freely express their spirituality, as it was wrongfully oppressed until 1978 when the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was enacted.
We seek the knowledge and wisdom of the elders, as there will be parts of our journey that we will can’t understand because we blindly ignore their sacredness.
We are inspired by the students at the Indian Community School in Wisconsin who lobbied to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, for we know that adult hands get tired and callused and sometimes need the freshness of young people to inspire new avenues for change.
We commend those who held onto their identities through the government’s efforts to encourage Indigenous people to assimilate into white culture through the American Indian Urban Relocation Act of 1956.
We are anxious to meet those from tribes that are recognized, not recognized, assumingly forgotten, and those who have chosen to limit interactions with colonizers.
We will work to recognize that though “Indigenous people” is a singular reference, it does not capture, limit, or tell the stories of the uniqueness of the many tribes that are in existence.
Wisconsin recognizes Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Forest County Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk Nation, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, St.
Croix Band of Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin, Sakaogon Chippewa Community, Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians. But, we won’t forget those who are not recognized, such as the Brothertown Tribe.
On Monday, October 14, 2019, pay your respect to Indigenous people by educating yourself on their history and their perseverance. Support businesses owned by Indigenous people and be present in spaces that you’ve been invited to as a visitor. Stand with Indigenous people in their push for change as Racinians have done with changing Christopher Columbus Causeway to Kipi Kawi Causeway.
It is our responsibility to follow the lead of Indegenous people and put our hands to work in pushing Christopher Columbus’ legacy out of the way to honor theirs for they, the Anishinaabe, were already here, on Turtle Island.