Seattle is celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day. Hundreds of people have gathered downtown and marched to City Hall.
Seattle is celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day. Hundreds of people have gathered downtown and marched to City Hall. SB

Mikayla Smith, 19
Nisqually Indian Tribe

Sponsored
Justice is on the ballot in November
Vote Carolyn Ladd by November 3rd for a more progressive justice system

Can you tell me about the regalia that you're wearing today?

I'm wearing some traditional furs that have been handed down to me from my mother. And I'm wearing a crown that represents the royalty for my tribe. I'm not current royalty, but I represent past royalty. And I'm wearing a blanket I made at an elder center in Nisqually. We worked on a project which is part of the regalia we wear when we dance, with family.

And what made you decide to come out for Indigenous Peoples' Day today?

To represent our decolonization. To represent Nisqually Tribe, as royalty. To help represent the missing and murdered indigenous women. To help bring light to some of the issues in Indian Country. To help represent indigenous people as a whole.

What are the issues you're working on right now—what's top of mind?

Right now, LNG is facing a serious issue in Tacoma with the Puyallup Tribe.

What does it mean to you to decolonize?

To decolonize is to bring your roots back, to bring decolonization to your children's futures, to pave ways for future generations to represent traditional ceremonial ways.

What are your plans for the future?

Right now I'm studying at Northwest Indian College, just working on an Associates Degree until I figure out what I want to major in. But my plans are to give back to the community, to represent and support indigenous people.

IMG_6905.jpg
SB

Sydney Bearchum, 28
Confederate Tribes of Umatilla

What does Indigenous Peoples Day mean to you?

You've probably heard the words used a lot: Resilience and strength. Community. Family. As an urban Indian myself and growing up in the city I have definitely always felt kind of separated from my culture, so it's really nice to have these type of events where it's all-inclusive.

Did you grow up here in Seattle?

I did. Just north, in Montlake Terrace.

What do you hope non-indigenous people recognize about Indigenous Peoples' Day?

The history. Being on Duwamish land and the fact that the Duwamish aren't a federally recognized tribe has always kind of boggled my mind. But I don't necessarily think it's about education. I think it's about observing and respecting. We're still learning and we're still growing as a people. I feel like there's a lot that's been stripped away. It's about reclaiming.

In this last year, how do you feel like you've reclaimed your indigenous identity?

I feel silly bringing it up, but I've recently quit drinking. So I'm just over a month of not drinking, and I know in my family that has definitely had an impact. And I know that addiction and suffering in that way has had an impact in our community, but I also feel like there's been a lot of growth. Education is another. I'm hoping to get a double major in social services and Native American studies.

What are your plans for the future?

I would love to be working in the Native community. I feel like it would add a lot to my life. I've been working in customer service and the food industry for a long time so it would be nice to do something that feels like a life's work and not just a job. And just connecting back to my family, and my ancestors, and knowing my story specifically, whether it's Northern Cheyenne, or Yakama, Walla Walla, Bitterroot Salish. Finding the ways that we interconnect and bringing us together as a people.

IMG_6908.jpg
SB

Austin Calflooking, 18
Blackfeet and Tsimshian

What does Indigenous Peoples' Day mean to you?

Support The Stranger

Pride. Embracing my Native-ness. It makes me real happy in gatherings with all Natives, all Tribes, in one spot. It's a real good day. I'm glad it got changed from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day.

What are your plans for the future?

I'm going to go to a Native college up in northern Washington. Find something to do in the community.

What do you want more non-indigenous people to know about Indigenous Peoples' Day?

My grandpa is working on making sure indigenous people get into good schools, and I'm helping him with that. If he goes to an event, I'm going to go there and help him. That guy right there, he's part of a Native group I'm about to be part of.

What's the group?

Clear Sky. It's a group that helps with you with school or sports. It's there to help Native kids and teach them how to make drums, or dream-catchers, and help them get back to their Native roots.

IMG_6907.jpg
SB


Quinna Hamby, 17
Tuscarora

What does Indigenous Peoples' Day mean to you?

It's a day where we all get together and remember who we are and practice our ways, our traditions, our culture. But I also think that Indigenous Peoples Day is every day for me. And I'm proud to be who I am every day. And I give thanks when I wake up. I'm very grateful to be alive and be indigenous.

I heard you singing earlier, along with a group of women. How do you feel when you sing?

It feels good. It's a blessing and I give thanks. And I'm proud to sing, that's why I share that with people, to let other people know we exist and that we're here.

What are your plans for the future?

I currently take classes at Northwest Indian College. Hopefully I'll pursue singing and studying music.

Dean Pablo, 32 (not pictured)
Tulalip Tribes, fisherman

What does Indigenous Peoples Day mean to you?

It means that we're waking the people. They're starting to realize that we're in downtown Seattle and celebrating at the City Hall. The message is getting out, prayers are getting heard.

What have you been praying for?

I pray for guidance and protection.

And when you say the message is getting out, what is the message you hope people hear?

People realize that we really are here for the best interests of all people, for the best interest of the children. Seven generations means a lot to us. We're here to make sure things are going to be okay for my son's grandchildren.

How old is your son?

5.

Is he celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day?

Yeah, he goes to school with all his cousins and they sing every morning. But I don't know; I think they're still on the Columbus Day track where he goes.

Really?

Yeah, crazy.

How do you deal with that?

I don't know. We're trying to circle up and talk about that now, because I think something needs to change with that situation for sure.

Have you talked to your son about Columbus Day? Has he ever come home and asked questions?

No, he's too young. He hasn't learned it yet, so I don't need to tell him about it yet. Just try keep it out of there, you know.

How do you think you're going to talk to him about it once he's old enough?

We take him on canoe journeys and take him to gatherings. He knows where we come from and how long we've been here. Just as long as we speak the truth and live the truth, he'll know.

What are your plans for the future?

Just to keep gaining as much traditional teachings as we can. Learn our songs as much as we can. We really want to start gathering and saving our traditional foods. Packaging, canning, salmon, and whatnot. Preparing for the future.

Shane McLane, 32 (not pictured)
Tulalip and Lummi fisherman

You were saying today is your first time celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day here.

It's my first time coming down to Seattle and celebrating it here with the people.

What does it mean to you to celebrate it here?

Really I'm trying to listen to the messages that the speakers and everyone are bringing forth. It means so much to be here with so many different indigenous peoples from all over the world to support Mother Earth and climate change and all that.

Tell me the issues that you're thinking about.

Mainly I'm thinking about the fish. How much the waters are starting to warm up, all the pollution, the coal. Everything that goes into the waters.

What would you want non-indigenous people to know about your livelihood?

As John Trudell said, use our minds coherently to really think about solutions and think about what we could do together for the future generations. What we do in our daily lives affects everything around us.

When did you start thinking about climate change?

Honestly, probably about seven, eight years ago. The effects, seeing it firsthand. Mainly the drops in the rivers, how low the rivers are getting. We had that Oso landslide happen where we're at, and the salinity levels in the waters, the dropping of the fish. The temperatures of course. Forest fires. There's all sorts of things.

What are your plans for the future?

Just keep trying to practice and live my culture and tradition in peace, harmony, balance.


These interviews have been lightly edited for length and clarity.