words by Nikkita Oliver
photos by Sharon H Chang
Each year more and more cities are celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day and rightly so.
Columbus did not discover the Americas as many sovereign Native nations were already living here on Turtle Island (also known as the United States). His arrival was followed by diseases, which decimated Native communities, and left a painful history of colonialism and genocide. We should question why we would ever celebrate someone who left such devastation as his legacy!
That said, and more importantly, it is powerful truth telling to celebrate Indigenous Peoples and acknowledge the depth of culture which makes this place, especially cities like Seattle, the rich and vibrant places they have always been—before here was here.
It is not enough though. Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island have always been here and will always been here, but are grossly invisibilized. It is time to pay much more than lip service to Native peoples.
Seattle, named after Suquamish/Duwamish Chief Sealth, is built on Native land and routinely capitalizes from Native culture. Yet Native people face the highest rates of housing instability, displacement, unemployment, and health disparities.
As Colleen Echo-Hawk said beautifully at the City of Seattle Indigenous Peoples Celebration [paraphrase]: A city named after a Suquamish/Duwamish chief built on Native land is only truly just when it is built and functions in ways that honor Native peoples and ensures Native people have a real place in all facets and functions of the land and the City.
Below are images from the Indigenous People’s Day – Honoring Our Women celebration which took place at the Washington State Capitol on Tuesday.