Celebrating and Recognizing the Resilience of Indigenous People on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Ramapoug Lenape and Long Island Tribes IPDNYC 2019
Ramapoug Lenape and Long Island Tribes IPDNYC 2019
Juliana Sohn

In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Dan’s Papers is introducing a new bi-weekly column, Shinnecock Voices, in which citizens of the Shinnecock Nation will share the stories of their people, discuss the projects and campaigns they’re efforting, and allow readers an inside view into their incredible community, which has inhabited the Hamptons long before the villages we know existed.

On June 15, 2020, the New York State Bill S8553 became active. The purpose of the bill is to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD). This bill still sits in the hands of the committee. Although New York has not officially recognized IPD, Indigenous people in New York will always celebrate and recognize who we are.

New York, Woodstock, Akron, Newstead, Ithaca, Rhinebeck, Rochester and Triangle recognize IPD. Locally, Southampton students asked the board to remove the name Christopher Columbus from the Holiday Calendar in 2016. Southampton Union Free School District Board of Education voted to change Christopher Columbus Day to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day/Italian Heritage Day” on October 14 of 2019.

As a direct descendant of the first international leaders and signatories who were the original inhabitants of the New York shores, it is my inherent obligation to continue the legacy of my family and nation. The co-founder of the Indigenous People’s Day New York City celebration on Randall’s Island, Cliff Matias, asked me a few years back to be a part of the organizing committee to help celebrate and recognize Indigenous People’s Day.

My first mission was to petition NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio and all 51 Council Members to #RecognizeIndigenousPeoplesDayNYC. Despite not being able to gather last year, we, the IPDNYC committee, worked with the Long Island Progressive Coalition to facilitate a virtual direct action to call the mayor’s office.

NY State has a bill sitting quietly, meanwhile NYC is home to the largest population of Indigenous people among metropolitan areas, and Southampton Township is located on the homelands of the Shinnecock who are still living in their ancestral homelands. Yet, all three jurisdictions have not recognized IPD.

This year we will have the annual IPDNYC celebration on Randall’s Island free to the public. For 24 hours, Indigenous leaders, elders, medicine people, cultural performers and supporters from across North America — or Turtle Island as many Native Americans and activists call it — joined by First peoples from the Caribbean, Polynesian Islands and South America will once again convene to share their traditions through song, dance, art and prayer. On October 10 at 11 a.m. the celebration will start with performances, music, vendors, food, spoken word, Indigenous activists and leaders, artists and an evening concert.

Shinnecock Tribal citizen Sunshine Gumbs will host a Red Dress special in honor of our missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirits. This special is to share the medicine of the dance in honor of all those who have passed on, the relatives standing on the frontlines and the protection of our Mother Earth. Shinnecock Tribal citizens Andrina Smith, Charles Cause and Dyashwa Sylvester, Tribal Chairman Bryan Polite and the Young Blood Singers are in the lineup for IPDNYC.

For the October 11 IPDNYC celebration, local tribes will come together for a sunrise tobacco and water ceremony led by local Indigenous medicine people and cultural bearers. Citizens from the local tribes — Ramapough Lenape Nation, Nanticoke Lenape, Mattinecock, Setalcott, Unkechaug Nation, Shinnecock Nation and Montauk people — will all be represented and speaking during the IPDNYC celebration.

For Indigenous peoples who speak up and take action to get their local areas to recognize IPD, it’s a painfully long process that unfortunately becomes an argument over the genocide of Indigenous people.

Indigenous peoples all throughout Turtle Island (North America) for centuries had to live in their own homelands where Christopher Columbus has been venerated with stories of his traversing the Atlantic and “discovering” the “New World.” When the truth is: He enslaved, punished, tortured, raped and slaughtered Indigenous peoples who failed to meet his expected service. The insidious and historical trauma that this causes to Indigenous peoples in their own homelands serves as a form of oppression.

The recognition of IPD is more than just celebrating a culture, it is the start of truth and reconciliation. It’s strengthening Tribal government to non-tribal government relationships. It contributes greatly to the healing of America’s Indigenous community, and it would honor this community’s resilience, strength and ongoing contributions to American culture and history.

The local tribes on Long Island during IPD weekend will be hosting events to celebrate the beauty of their communities and creating an opportunity to support Indigenous artisans, entrepreneurs and community workers. On Saturday, October 9, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., on the Shinnecock Territory, Raindrop’s Cafe hosts a free event, open to the public. Very talented Shinnecock artist Durrell Nhale Rell Hunter will be joining and showcasing many of his paintings. The Poospatuck Cultural Committee will be hosting the Unkechaug Nation’s Native Pop-Up shop on the Poospatuck Powwow Grounds on Saturday, October 9, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Here are a few suggested ways to celebrate IPD: Support the local Indigenous-led events happening in our area. Call on your representatives to recognize IPD. Donate regularly to Indigenous-led campaigns and organizations. Shop Indigenous-created brands and support Indigenous-owned businesses. Follow Indigenous social media accounts to learn more about the culture and Indigenous rights — @netooeusqua, @warriorsofthesunrise, @onthesite, @shinnecock_youth_clubhouse, @shinnecockportraits, @indigenouspeoplesmovement, @ipdnyc, @illuminative and @indigenousintentions. And check out these hashtags #StopLine3, #IndigneousPeoplesMovement, #RecognizeIndigenousPeoplesDay, #MMIW and #PreserveShinnecockHills.

Chenae Bullock is an enrolled Shinnecock Nation Tribal citizen and descendant of the Montauk Tribe on Long Island. Chenae is a mogul, community leader, business leader, water protector, land defender, cultural preservationist and humanitarian.

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