In 2014, the Grand Rapids City Council joined a growing number of cities around the United States to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day. The council unanimously passed a resolution to “reflect on our history and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that the Anishinaabe (Chippewa and Ojibwe) the Dakota and other Indigenous Nations add to our city.”
The City’s 2015 Indigenous People’s Day was celebrated with a mini powwow in downtown Grand Rapids, with student drum and dance groups from four area schools and Leech Lake. Over 700 people of all ages attended.
This year’s celebration will focus on language which, to contemporary Indigenous people, is key to cultural revitalization and preservation. In the recent past, Indigenous culture and language were intentionally subjugated by the US government during decades of forced removal of Native children from their families and placement in boarding schools.
“Destruction of language by a dominant culture is now recognized worldwide as a basic violation of human rights,” said Grand Rapids Human Rights Commission Chair Melissa Weidendorf. “The interruption of culture and family by the forced removal of children, and the outlawing in the US of Indigenous religious practice until 1978, has had an undeniably profound impact on the health and vitality of Ojibwe and other Indigenous people across North America.”
“Language, art, and music are the vessels that carry the elements of culture and identity across generations,” said Human Rights Commissioner Karen Noyce. “Indigenous leaders today are focused on revitalizing language as a key element in moving their communities forward. The City of Grand Rapids is doing what it can to assist in this effort.”
2016 Indigenous People’s Day events:
• A short program including remarks by Human Rights Commission Chair Melissa Weidendorf, Mayor Dale Adams, Dan Jones, Native American Studies Program, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, and City Administrator Tom Pagel. Refreshments by Friends of the Library.
• On Thursday, Oct. 13 at the Grand Rapids Library Grand Rapids and Greenway High School students will be the teachers for this beginning Ojibwe language workshop. Attendees will learn basic words and phrases in a learning station format.
• Saturday, Oct. 15, at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. is “Discovering the Little Brothers” story time at the Grand Rapids Area Library. Former Grand Rapids resident Chelsea Annette Durand will do a reading of her book, “Discovering the Little Brothers,” while her husband and illustrator Luke Durand creates illustrations.