Indigenous Peoples Day: Changing the narrative

It’s been six months since I joined the team at Travois, and I’ve learned so much from the clients we serve and the team at Travois.

There are 567 federally recognized tribes and sovereign nations. There are many more state-recognized Native communities and urban American Indian centers.

It’s about time we shine a spotlight on their story.

Indigenous Peoples Day is a moment to recognize the culture and influence that North American indigenous communities contribute to all who occupy these United States of America.

And yet, across the country the bank holiday of Columbus Day is still acknowledged despite the inaccuracy, oppression and genocide that has occurred since 1492.

Many people, institutions and cities are changing the narrative. Forty years ago, a delegation of Native nations first proposed Indigenous Peoples Day to the United Nations. I applaud the City Council members of Kansas City, MO, who last week changed the day’s recognition to Indigenous Peoples Day.

I’m thrilled that Travois hosted Matika Wilbur last week to shine a light on the power, grace and dignity of Native American women through her “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women” exhibition.

Matika is one of the most inspiring social documentarians and photographers I have ever met. She is a modern-day culture bearer and is leading a campaign to show the vibrancy of North American indigenous peoples, 30,000 of whom live in the Kansas City region.

If you missed the launch of the Travois First Fridays, you can join us in November. Register here.

Travois featured Matika at our conference in 2014, two years after she first launched Project 562, a social documentary initiative to visually record all federally recognized tribes. The number of tribes and sovereign nations she has engaged has grown exponentially, and she is still working brilliantly through her gifts, photography and voice, to change the narrative.


Sinead Talley (Karuk and Yurok), 2017

At Matika’s opening artist talk she shared that web searches for the words “African American,” “Latino American,” and “Asian American” show beautiful images of family, celebrities and leaders. Web searches for American Indians display historic, and too often, stereotyped images that deny humanity.

You can shine a spotlight on Indigenous Peoples Day. Click on images like the photographs taken by Matika and more people will see the dignity and power of American Indian communities.

Change the narrative today. Check out Matika’s website and claim this holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day.

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