“Our country was conceived on a promise of equality and opportunity for all people — a promise that, despite the extraordinary progress we have made through the years, we have never fully lived up to. That is especially true when it comes to upholding the rights and dignity of the Indigenous people who were here long before colonization of the Americas began.”
I am Mvskoke, and today, I am honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day from the ancestral lands of the Shawnee, Chickasaw, Yuchi, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee, known as northern Alabama.
Reflecting on this day can be emotional because we are history, the present, and the future. There is a Mvskoke saying, “Este Mvskokvlke Paksvnke, Mucv-Nettv, Pakse,” which when translated, means “Mvskoke People, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.” We hold both our past and our present — our ancestors brought us to today and we carry their words and stories with us. We have the same responsibility to take us into tomorrow. It can be both a burden and an honor. Perhaps it is an honor to carry the burden?
To be Indigenous is complex in this country because people need to know the full account of our nation’s history, but Native people are more than just cultural genocide, forcible removals from homelands, and children being separated and removed from their families. We are creative with our hands and our minds, and our songs and dance reflect the beauty of Nativeness. We are communal, we are fierce, we are diverse, we are reflective, we are connected, and if I say so myself, our humor is unmatched.
Yes, there is the resiliency we’ve had to develop throughout history; but we are also artists, scientists, founders, lawyers, writers, professors, collegiate presidents, activists, politicians, teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers, and so on. We are protectors of the land and water. Together, we are a mighty voice. We believe in stewarding the land that our Creator placed us on. We are Imago Dei, and our skin, our language, and our existence reflects the image of the Creator.
Simultaneously, you cannot dismiss the very real continual suppression and oppression by both fellow Americans and the entity of government. For my non-Native sisters and brothers, may you look beyond prejudice and what you know of history, and begin to search for the totality of the story.
To be Indigenous is complex in this country. The full account of our nation’s history acknowledges that Native people are more than cultural genocide, forcible removals from homelands, and children separated from families. (1/2) Click To Tweet We are creative with our hands and our minds, and our songs and dance reflect the beauty of Nativeness. We are communal, we are fierce, we are diverse, we are reflective, we are connected, and our humor is unmatched. (2/2) Click To Tweet
We are a joy-filled people even in our lament of continual suppression and oppression, but we do collectively demand our voices be heard:
- Our children are worthy of remaining with their people.
- Children should be buried in the earth of their homeland, and not left in the ground in a foreign place of trauma from the residential and boarding school era.
- The voices of our missing and murdered women and girls deserve to be prioritized, and justice served.
- Our culture deserves to be learned and honored, not mocked by the use of mascots for sports teams.
- Our land and water should remain clean and be life giving on our tribal lands.
- Our land deserves to be protected and remain in Indigenous care.
Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day to my Native relatives in this space. We are beautifully and powerfully made. We are not suppressed and our existence matters in the eyes of the One who created us.
A Next Step: Acknowledging Native Lands
One of the simplest things you can do today is acknowledge Native lands where you are living or working. If you are not sure, native-land.ca is a helpful resource. Our ancestors brought us to today and we carry their words and stories with us. We have the same responsibility to take us into tomorrow. It can be both a burden and an honor. Perhaps it is an honor to carry the burden? Click To Tweet
Mariah Humphries (M.T.S.) is a Mvskoke Nation citizen, writer and educator. Through her experience navigating the tension between Native and White American culture, she brings Native awareness to non-Native spaces. With over 20 years of vocational ministry service, she is focused on theology, racial literacy and reconciliation within the American Church. Mariah is the Director of Marketing and Innovation for Be The Bridge, an organization that creates awareness and holistic response to the racial brokenness and systemic injustice present in our world. She is a contributor to the recent shared book project Voices of Lament.
*Editorial Note: Reading with an open, learning posture is one of the best ways to foster compassion and deepen awareness of the reality of a lived experience different than your own. We pray that these resources are a first step in doing so for you. ~CK
- Native / Indigenous Websites:
- Native / Indigenous Books (Written by at least one Native author):