Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Those who came before finally have a day of their own, and arts organizations are thankfully putting more consistent commitment into honoring those whose land is now occupied by performing arts centers, offices, churches and wherever you’re doing your stuff.
You’ve probably heard people recognize the original inhabitants of the land they’re living and working on, whether it’s (in my case) the Gabrielino Tongvas, or one of the hundreds of other tribes documented in the US alone. The fact is, native tribes in our country have lost 99% of their land, and many are trying to at least acknowledge that fact by leaving Columbus Day behind, and as recently as 2021 (when Indigenous Peoples’ Day become a federal holiday), replacing it with opportunities to learn about our local tribes and the rich cultures that came before us.
How to mark the day
This day is more about acknowledgment than celebration, so not everyone will respond well to “Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!” Instead, do something that’s meaningful and share your experience. Find out where you are, and who lived there long ago. This map can help with that.
You might also attend a local or online event to mark the day, so you can learn more about the cultures around us. This website outlines related events all over the country, but beware that some of them are designed specifically for tribal people, so always be respectful of that.
Not sure about your own roots?
November is actually Native American Heritage Month, but you can dive into this rich history anytime. The month’s official website is a good place to start
You can trace your own heritage and learn more about your ancestors, especially if you have personal connections to Native American tribes. You never know about your own mix unless you’ve been researched or tested: My family has an old connection with the Sioux, and while the link is many generations back, learning more that culture has been surprising and enlightening… and we’re just getting started. If you’d like to dig deeper, these sites might help, as things might get a little complicated. But don’t let that stop you…
Don’t forget the music connection
There are some resources online that reveal composers and works that have roots with indigenous cultures. Here are a few:
But don’t forget the hyperlocal: start developing an awareness of your own colleagues and the roots they’re proud of. If the moment arises, ask questions, but don’t press. Let them reveal and celebrate their background on their own individual timelines. (What we don’t want is a lot of tokenism and fake-themed concerts designed to show off and appropriate diversity.) Listening is most important, and will enrich everyone’s lives and work. Real collaboration will come.
The Canadians have been developing their awareness longer than we have, and so they’re already a bit ahead of the game. That land map linked above, for instance, comes from the north, as does this article on Canadian musicians with indigenous roots. Hopefully we’ll see more and more celebrations of all kinds of classical diversity as we all grow together.
Today’s the day to keep that going!