MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Monday was Indigenous Peoples Day, an opportunity to honor Native contributions and heritage.
Minnesota is home to about 58,000 Native Americans, which is a just over 1% of the state’s population. There are 11 sovereign tribal nations in Minnesota, mostly made up of Ojibwe and Sioux communities.
Dozens of community members, including Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, attended a sunrise service at Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis. Later in the day, a joyous celebration was held outside St. Paul Public Schools headquarters, where a small group gathered to raise a Native American peace pole. High school student Cayley Coyne describes what the pole represents to her.
“We’re still here, that we haven’t left, and that our traditions just keep on going no matter how hard things get,” Coyne said.
Many of the women came in ribbon skirts, wearing Native jewelry. Lavon Lee says it’s a growing trend.
“There’s pride that we’re being validated, that we’re being respected and acknowledged by mainstream community,” Lee said.
Indigenous Peoples Day is relatively new. Minneapolis was one of the first cities in the country to celebrate it. The first statewide celebration in Minnesota was in 2016, and Gov. Walz made it an official holiday in 2019.
The establishment of this day, replacing Columbus Day on the state calendar, is a source of pride and permanence.
“It’s our time to be recognized. It’s our time to be respected. It’s our time to be validated, and we want everybody to know that, that we’re proud of who we are,” Lee said.
After a ceremony complete with music and prayer, the pole was officially raised.
“I think for so long, as Native people, we’ve been invisible,” St. Paul Public Schools supervisor John Bobalink said. “So to have a visible structure that’s gonna be seen every day, that’s what it screams — we are still here.”
And as if on cue with the pole raised, a hawk circled overhead.
“We have a visitor that likes what we’re doing,” a ceremony attendee said.