Happy late Indigenous Peoples Day! In case you didn’t know, Indigenous Peoples Day was this past Monday, Oct. 14. It was celebrated with singing and a round dance on the steps of Main Hall.
If you’re not aware that Indigenous Peoples Day is a thing, well, why? Indigenous Peoples Day, while still not a federally recognized holiday, is observed in many places (including Missoula) instead of Columbus Day.
The purpose of the renamed holiday is to acknowledge the people who were here on this continent before Colombus. This is also intended to eliminate the notion that Columbus “discovered” this land — just because Europeans accidentally made their way over doesn’t mean it was a brand new place.
It’s an educational opportunity that based on the recent videos from high schools both in and out of Montana shows us, is still very necessary.
On Oct. 4, Valier High School in Montana’s Pondera County, showed a student-made video at a pep rally. Nothing out of the ordinary for homecoming festivities, right? Wrong.
The video depicted a female student in a red skirt (a symbol of the missing and murdered indigenous women’s movement), braids and a feather being hit on the head with a football and “killed.” The Valier Panthers’ opponent for the homecoming game was a nearby reservation school, the Heart Butte Warriors. Many people have boiled this down to a lack of education. This is exceptionally frustrating in the state that literally has a law in place requiring all schools in Montana to teach about Indigenous people.
One of the nice things to come out of this is that Heart Butte students and University of Montana students want to use this as an educational tool to take this moment and start a dialogue of open and honest discussion about things that Indigenous people go through.
While it’s fantastic that these communities are trying to do this, I can’t help but feel frustrated. I’m frustrated because when these things — these racist actions — happen, it becomes up to Indigenous people to pick up the slack.
When non-Indigenous people screw up, we are the ones expected to fix the problem and educate. When we are put down and degraded, made fun of and insulted, we still hold our heads high and maintain our pride. We move forward with such grace and understanding that, frankly, most people don’t deserve.
Why should students who were made fun of in a racist fashion buck up and educate people who haven’t even apologized? It’s bullshit. It’s not our job and we shouldn’t be expected to take on this burden. It should be up to non-Indigenous people to not only educate themselves but hold their peers accountable.If you know something that your friend is doing is wrong, say something! Don’t just stand there and let these injustices occur.
Despite my frustration, I have a genuine respect and admiration for the Heart Butte students. It takes so much to put yourself out there and be open to the mistakes of others. I can only hope that those who I am trying to reach listen.
As for allies, this Indigenous Peoples Day I hope that you took the time to not only educate yourself, but attempted to understand the way you walk in the world. Take time to think about whose land you’re on and what it took to get you where you are. And please, for all of us, don’t make racist videos and post them on the internet.