Guest column: Indigenous Day proclamations viewed as ceremony

  • Wednesday, October 9, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

In recent years, many local jurisdictions have begun to proclaim Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday of October, a date formerly celebrated as Columbus Day. We appreciate this shift as a recognition that Columbus did not “discover” America, and the opportunity for officials and the public to gain a better understanding of indigenous societies and culture that pre-dated the arrival of Columbus.

These proclamations are an opportunity to understand history and the impact of European settlers on American Indian and Alaska Native existence, political standing, ways of life, and our present-day contributions to our communities.

Washington State has good momentum in honoring its Indigenous People’s via proclamations signed by Gov. Inslee and additional proclamations signed at our local jurisdictions.

Clallam County and Jefferson County leadership, as well as City of Port Angeles and City of Port Townsend leadership, have made tremendous efforts in the last couple of years to make this a new normal.

Just this year, the City of Sequim leadership has joined in the effort.

When these proclamations are planned in partnership with the local tribes, they become more than a piece of paper or words — the proclamations become a portion of an important ceremony.

In the S’Klallam culture, a ceremony is performed to signify an important event such as birth, coming of age, the receiving of an ancestral name, the giving in marriage, victory in a battle, a fruitful harvest or hunt, and the agreement of alliances. Ceremonies are planned with great care; many months, and sometimes many years, are spent in gathering gifts and supplies, foods, pieces of regalia, learning the ceremonial ways, and learning the significance of the event.

When the time comes, the people gather to perform their songs and dances, feast together, gift away the handmade gifts, and listen to the elders as they tell the story of how the ceremony came to be, and how important it is to tell the story and honor the event for future generations.

Today, our Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe considers the Indigenous People’s Day proclamations as ceremony. The proclamations symbolize a respectful relationship between two governments, and the significance of continued partnership while we inhabit the land together.

During these ceremonies we expect to bring our value of holding such an event as sacred. We look forward to planning these events with careful detail; we look forward to bringing our best selves by performing our songs and dances in a public space; we look forward to showing off our intricately made regalia, by giving a gift and receiving the gift of the signed proclamation, and we bring our leaders or elders to speak to the importance of the event.

When we come to an event well prepared, we do this for the other party; we want to show that we have taken the time to prepare mentally and spiritually because we highly respect the others involved.

As S’Klallam People, we value sharing our history, culture, traditions and educating those who are willing to listen and receive it.

Our Tribe deeply appreciates our local jurisdictions and their leadership. We raise our hands to these honoring actions and look forward to our mutual planning of these annual ceremonies.

Loni (Grinnell) Greninger is a descendant of Chief Chetzemoka.

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