Indigenous People's Day Message by
Ernie Stevens, Jr., Chairman
Washington, D.C. – October 12, 2020 – The National Indian Gaming Association joins the rest of Indian country, many States, cities, and counties, in celebrating this year’s “Indigenous People’s Day.”
At its core, Indigenous People’s Day is an opportunity to educate American citizens about the First peoples of this continent, and tell the story of our traditions, culture and contributions to world history. It is an opportunity to tell the history of North America, not from the European settler perspective, but from the perspective of the indigenous people living here since time immemorial. Even in the year 2020, we are still educating our citizens that Christopher Columbus did not “discover” America in 1492, but instead found a vibrant, diverse, and culturally sophisticated Native America with over 100 million inhabitants.
We stand with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and our other sister organizations, in our commitment to educating the public about the history and contributions of Indian country to the founding of this Republic. Indian Country, along with our friends and neighbors, will continue to take the Indigenous People’s Day message of celebration, unity, and education, in reclaiming our history and our rightful place in the founding of this Country.
Indigenous People’s day is now being exclusively observed by more than 130 metropolitan cities, including Los Angeles and towns and states, such as Minnesota, Alaska, Maine, Louisiana, Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada, Vermont, South Dakota, and as of last week in my home State of Wisconsin.
Native Americans have always had the most diverse and productive traditions of Agriculture in the World. The Three Sisters, Corn, Beans and Squash, gave sustainable food to our People. Potatoes, Peppers, and Tomatoes are Native American crops and have successfully given European and Asian nations their national dishes from pizza and spaghetti with tomatoes to Irish stew based on potatoes and Thai curry made with chili peppers. Today, 60% of the crops grown worldwide are the original products of Native American farmers.
Our traditions and cultures emphasized our Native Peoples’ connection to the natural world. We venerated the Eagle, the Wolf, the Bear, and the Turtle in our Six Nations Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Salmon and Killer Whales are the sacred totems of the Northwest Native Peoples. In the Great Plains, the Buffalo was sacred because it gave life to the People.
Now, more than ever, America needs the leadership of our Native People. To help restore the Environment and fight Climate Change, Native traditions emphasize respect for the land, the water, and the sky because the Creator gave us a duty to protect Mother Earth.
As each of us observes Indigenous People’s Day in our own manner, I want ask each of us to think about how Native Americans truly influenced this country. Our Native Nations welcomed the first European settlers and Columbus with a gratitude and respect for these immigrant visitors. While the sentiment was not always returned in kind, Native Americans never stopped loving their country and continued to treat their neighbors with respect throughout the centuries to come.
Through recognition such as Indigenous People’s Day and the upcoming Native American Heritage Month, we can reflect on today’s Native Americans who still stand proud and ready to offer a helping hand as partners in this Republic.
Soon, all of us will have an opportunity exercise our civic duties and participate in America’s time honored democratic tradition of voting. As partners in this great democracy, it is the responsibility of Native Americans to remain active and visible as parts of the political landscape undergo a major cultural change in America.
Indian Country has been here and preserved through much tougher times, only this time, all of Native America must participate and engage in the electoral process. Only through our political engagement can our voices be heard, our treaties be respected, and our Tribal Governments can survive for the next seven generations.
On this Indigenous People’s Day, I urge you to take the steps necessary to register to vote, and please make Indian Country’s voice be heard on November 3, 2020.