It was easy to find the downtown march on Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Seattle. You just had to follow the drumming. Several hundred people coursed down Fifth Avenue, their voices drifting up with plumes of sage smoke emanating from a metal basket.
Seattle’s Native community moved slowly, circling up in each intersection for more singing and dancing. When they hit Fifth and Spring Street, a fire engine roared up the hill — the crowd parted briefly before flowing back to into the circle like water.
When the marchers arrived at City Hall, they filled the lobby with their bodies and the roar of their drums. Onlookers could feel the vibrations in their core, even in the walls of the house of government that took its name from a Native chief.
The celebration — which continued in a community dinner at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park — marked the fifth year since Native activists successfully lobbied the City Council to dispense with Columbus Day celebrations and instead honor the Native peoples whose lives he ruined by unleashing European conquest of the Americas.
The devastation wreaked by colonization continues into modern time. An epidemic of violence against Indigenous women and girls has only recently received mainstream attention, and Native people are disproportionately homeless and impoverished.
Governments have historically not been good partners to the Native communities, flouting treaties and fighting them on promised fishing rights. The Duwamish people, on whose land Seattle was created, remain unrecognized as a tribe by the federal government.
In the face of such injustices, the Native peoples of the area refuse to stay silent. They are fighting for culturally responsive housing, for an intergovernmental response to the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and an end to the cultural appropriation of their identities.
The reclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is one victory on a long, dark road. But it is one worth celebrating.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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Read the full October 16 - 22 issue.
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