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Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Eiteljorg Museum

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Many students learn the phrase “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” but many do not learn about the resilience and culture of Indigenous Peoples in the United States.

In an effort to recognize, commemorate and honor the history of Indigenous Peoples, many around the country are celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day on Monday, Oct. 9. 

North Carolina and Nanticoke Lenape artist Leonard Harmon passion for culinary arts, dance and traditional Native arts led him to mixed media art and contemporary painting.  (Photo provided/ Leonard Harmon (Nanticoke Lenape))

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday that celebrates, commemorates and honors Indigenous histories and cultures. It is celebrated across the U.S. on the second Monday in October. 

Monica Raphael, curator of Great Lakes Native cultures and community engagement at Eiteljorg Museum and member of Anishinaabe / Sicángu Lakota Nations, celebrates her culture daily. She pays homage to her ancestors who were brutalized and erased on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“Despite failed attempts by the U.S. government to terminate our culture, language and beliefs through forced removal from our original homelands and despite forced separation of Native children to be taken away to boarding schools where they were abused, murdered and forever changed from what Creator originally meant for them – we the First Peoples and Indigenous Peoples of this land are still here,” Raphael said.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day began as a counter-celebration of Columbus Day in the early 1990s but only recently became recognized as an adopted holiday by some cities and states, including Indianapolis. It is celebrated and recognized as a national holiday but remains a nonfederal holiday. 

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Raphael said she would like to see Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognized in the Federal Register as a holiday.  

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day is about bringing recognition. It’s about sharing with the greater society of the United States that we are still here despite brutal attempts to erase us. We’re still here,” Raphael said. “We still have a vibrant and living culture. That’s how you recognize us as Native people. That’s how you recognize us as citizens of the United States, and let’s celebrate our people.” 

Indigenous People’s Day Celebration

The Eiteljorg Museum is celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day through performance storytelling on Oct. 7 and free admission on Monday, Oct. 9.

The performance will feature drum group Warpaint with singer Kaya Little Turtle of the Lumbee / Tuscarora Nations in North Carolina and Nanticoke Lenape artist Leonard Harmon.

Harmon’s passion for culinary arts, dance and traditional Native arts led him to mixed media art and contemporary painting. 

Giovanni Sanchez, photo lab and rentals manager at Roberts Camera, and his daughters will also share contemporary powwow dances representing the Mexica / Nahua and Diné (Navajo) Peoples. 

Several Indigenous storytellers will share Indigenous stories throughout the celebration. Turtle Clan Haudenosaunee storyteller Perry Ground, Tsimshian artist David R. Boxley and Tsimshian artist Kandi McGilton will share their work and talk about language revitalization, said Madison Hincks, public programs coordinator. 

Boxley began carving at the age of six under his father’s instruction and continues to share his culture through his art, cultural performances and teaching. 

McGilton, who is known for her devilfish (octopus) bags and cedar bark weaving, will talk about her efforts as cofounder of the Haayk Foundation. 

Roberts Camera and Canon will also hold a photography workshop from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Visitors can register for this event separately on Eventbrite. The cost to attend is $10-$18.

To learn more about the movement to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day, visit the National Museum of the American Indian website’s “Unlearning Columbus Day Myths: Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day” 

“Today, Indigenous communities continue to suffer from economic and health disparities relative to the general population, continue to witness the same assaults on our lands that have resulted in environmental degradation; however, we continue to persevere, flourish and celebrate our cultures and ways of knowing while also thriving in contemporary America,” Raphael said. “On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we invite you to take a little time to learn more about the cultures of the people who originally inhabited the land on which you now live. Acknowledging and taking part in Indigenous Peoples’ Day can be liberating and uplifting to museum visitors, and we encourage and invite all to celebrate with us.”

The First Nations publishes a list of essential reading for those interested in learning more about the Native American experience here.

IF YOU GO:
Who: Eiteljorg Museum & Roberts Camera
What: Indigenous Peoples’ Day
When: Oct. 7 and Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: 500 W. Washington St.

Oct. 7 Schedule

10:30 a.m. – Under the Sails with Storyteller Perry Ground (Onondaga Nation).
11:45 a.m. – Under the Sails with Kandi McGilton, beadwork artist and language preservationist.
12:30 p.m – Performances by Leonard Harmon (Nanticoke Delaware/Lenape) and Kaya Little Turtle (Lumbee) in partnership with Canon and Roberts Camera.

1 p.m. – Curator-led tour of the museum’s new Native American Galleries, featuring the exhibition Expressions of Life: Native Art in North America
2:45 p.m. – Under the Sails with David R. Boxley (Tsimshian), artist, culture-bearer and storyteller. 
3:30 p.m. – Under the Sails with Storyteller Perry Ground (Onondaga Nation).

Oct. 9 Schedule

(Photo provided/ Turtle Clan Haudenosaunee Perry Ground)

10 a.m. – Free admission until 5 p.m.

11 a.m. – Curator-led tour of the museum’s new Native American Galleries, featuring the exhibition Expressions of Life: Native Art in North America

3 p.m. – Curator-led tour of the museum’s new Native American Galleries, featuring the exhibition Expressions of Life: Native Art in North America

For more information about the history of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Native owned businesses, visit Eiteljorg.com/indigenous-peoples-day/.

Contact staff writer Jayden Kennett at 317-762-7847 or by email jaydenk@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Kandi McGilton’s name. A corrected version has been updated. The Recorder makes every attempt to correct its mistakes.

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