Indigenous Peoples' Day goes virtual this year

Credit: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Credit: University of Alaska Fairbanks(University of Alaska Fairbanks)
Published: Oct. 10, 2020 at 5:15 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -Several groups in Alaska are gearing up to celebrate the upcoming Monday holiday, Indigenous Peoples' Day.

For many states and cities across the country, the second Monday of October is known as Indigenous Peoples' Day, and this year many celebrations are going virtual.

In 2017, resolutions from University of Alaska students, staff and faculty groups across the UA system supported recognizing the day, and have been honoring it since.

This year, UAF has invited Heather Kendall-Miller, an Alaska Native rights attorney, to be the keynote speaker.

Kendall-Miller is Denaina Athabaskan and a tribal member of the Curyung Tribe of Dillingham, Alaska. She currently works in Anchorage as a senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund.

Two other groups working together to honor the day virtually are the non-profits Native Movement and Defend the Sacred AK.

The groups have teamed up to host a celebration and virtual rally. There will be musical performances by Marc Brown, Nanieezh Peter, Portugul.The Man, Torin Jacobs and a guest appearance by comedian Dallas Goldtooth.

Indigenous Peoples Day celebration and virtual rally hosted by Native Movement and Defend the...
Indigenous Peoples Day celebration and virtual rally hosted by Native Movement and Defend the Sacred AK.(Sarah Hollister)

The celebration also includes a more serious discussion with indigenous protectors on land, water, food justice, gender justice and healing, police brutality, and systemic racism.

Ruth Łchavlaya K’isen Miller is emceeing the event. She says this is a time of celebration, but also a time to hold space for pain remembered on this day as well.

“When we reflect on Indigenous People’s Day, it’s not just a reflection of our strength and our resilience but it’s also a reflection of the histories that often go untold,” Miller said. "Indigenous Peoples Day is important to uplift and to celebrate and to honor, particularly around this season where Christopher Columbus is so often upheld as a hero when we know he was one of many perpetrators of genocide against our people and began a long legacy of white supremacy against indigenous nations and communities that is still clearly at play today. So when we celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day we are honoring that history and are coming together for our shared strength.”

Miller says the invitation is open to all people. She says she hopes the event will also give participants a bit of relief from the isolation many have feet since the start of the pandemic.

“We are hoping we are able to give a bit of respite from the monotony and droning on of endless zoom calls, but also bring us together -- people all across the state being able to dance to the same song at the same time," Miller said. "That’s magic and that’s the community time that we have all been yearning for. So any way that we can find it and manifest it now is all the more healing.”

The University of Alaska Fairbanks' Keynote speaker event is held at 11 a.m. on Monday. On Tuesday, the University is also hosting a Land Acknowledgment Workshop and a Creative Content Panel. More information can be found at on their website.

Native Movement and Defend the Sacred AK’s Indigenous Peoples' Day Celebration and Virtual Rally is at noon on Monday. More information can be found on their facebook event page.

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