Indigenous Peoples Day is on Monday. It was created as a state holiday through legislation signed into law in 2017 by former Governor Walker in a ceremony held during Utqiaġvik’s annual Nalukataq whaling festival. It replaces Columbus Day, and it is a small step toward atonement for the colonialism of our American and Alaskan history.
On this Indigenous Peoples Day, let’s not focus only on the importance of Indigenous leadership in the historic, amazing, hopeful, wonderful, progressive, life-affirming, joyful, and extremely well-earned election of Mary Peltola, the first Indigenous Alaskan to ever in the history of planet earth, serve in the United States Congress. Let’s not only focus on the justice of the appointment of Deb Haaland to oversee Indigenous lands and waters as the first Indigenous Secretary of the Interior. Let’s not only focus on the myriad ways Indigenous leadership has and will continue to move policies forward in Alaska – from Tribal Recognition to Language Revitalization to Subsistence Rights and Salmon Protection.
On this Indigenous Peoples Day, let’s focus on and give thanks for the Indigenous leadership and stewardship that has created the Alaska we live in today. From Utqiagvik to Metlakatla. Think of the thousands of years of human experience in the mountains and rivers, at the ocean shore, in the muskegs, taiga, forests, and tundra. Let’s give thanks today to those who lived and worked and played here for thousands of years and will for thousands of years to come.
We at The Alaska Center recognize the colonial structures inherent in the history of the conservation movement, including the historical displacement of Indigenous communities from land and policies that have negatively impacted Indigenous hunting and fishing rights. We will be celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in honor of all those Alaska Native leaders on whose lands we are blessed to live and continue working toward a more equitable and just future.
We are in this together,
The Alaska Center Team
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