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We asked for the meaning of Indigenous Peoples' Day: "We are still here"

Saint Regis Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe, Shinnecock, Setalcott and Mi'kmaq Nations

Indigenous Peoples' Day was officially recognized as a federal holiday for the first time last year. The holiday on Monday honors Native American people and culture. We asked tribal citizens from across Connecticut and Long Island about the significance of the day.

Recognizing past injustices is important, but more importantly it is imperative to recognize the current injustices perpetrated against tribes.
Bryan Polite, chairman of the Shinnecock Indian Nation

“The term ‘still here’ is a testament to the resiliency, fortitude and strength of the indigenous communities throughout the country,” said Bryan Polite, chairman of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

“All people can make themselves more aware of native issues, especially if they have a native community within their community. Education is the biggest ally of native causes because without fully being aware of the historical issues facing Indian Country, it is impossible to fully rectify the many problems facing those communities.”

Even today, in 2022, there's so much misinformation about Native Americans and other indigenous people, both in children's textbooks and the world at large.
Alli Hunter Joseph, citizen of Shinnecock Indian Nation

“It is a way of waking up our society and telling the truth about our history. It is a way to honor the survival and continued struggle of Indigenous people,” said Monique Fitzgerald, of the Setalcott Indian Nation.

“I think it's an important opportunity on a singular day each year to remind the rest of the folks that we, as Indigenous people, are still here,” said Alli Hunter Joseph, of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. “And we have always been here. And we are not just on reservations, as many people may think we are, actually in urban centers, and throughout these United States, which of course, at one time, were all Indian country, and, in fact, still are.”

“Educating oneself about the true and actual history of indigenous people in this country, United States in particular, is vital to changing stereotypes and creating more appreciation for indigenous cultures and contributions.”

This day represents Indigenous people, taking our voices back, telling our stories, correcting history and proclaiming that we are still here.
Danielle Oakes, citizen of St. Regis Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe

“Growing up it felt like we were either mystified or forgotten or put in the perspective that we’re in ancient history, like we’re not here basically,” said Alex Dedam, a citizen of the First Nations Mi'kmaq in Canada and a student at Southern Connecticut State University.

"On the reservations, they’re not always the best communities. We’re going through a lot of struggles, issues either internally or external forces, and it would be better to have more recognition than constantly fighting for that.”

“We're not text in some history book or an artifact in a museum, but that we continue to live, breathe and flourish as indigenous peoples and communities today,” said Danielle Oakes, of the St. Regis Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe.

What does Indigenous Peoples' Day means to you?

Share your thoughts with the form below, or send us a voice message through the WSHU app.

Jeniece Roman is WSHU's Report for America corps member who writes about Indigenous communities in Southern New England and Long Island, New York.
Deidre Redhead is a former news fellow at WSHU.