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Red Lake Nation takes to the streets for Indigenous Peoples Day celebration

Sporting ribbon skirts and other traditional regalia, about 75 participants held up signs of support and marched along Highway 1 as a traveling drum group was pulled on a trailer to Red Lake Nation College where a traditional walleye feast awaited them.

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Participants march along Highway 1 during an Indigenous Peoples Day event on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Red Lake.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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RED LAKE — Red Lake Nation marched in solidarity to commemorate Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday with around 75 members completing a trek from the old trading post building to Red Lake Nation College.

Sporting ribbon skirts and other traditional regalia, about 75 participants held up signs of support and marched along Highway 1 as a traveling drum group was pulled on a trailer about 3/4 of a mile to RLNC where a traditional walleye feast awaited them.

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A drum group is pulled along on a trailer during a march as part of an Indigenous Peoples Day event on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Red Lake.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

One focus of the celebration was an 1889 land agreement with the U.S. government that recognized Red Lake’s formal sovereignty, which followed Red Lake’s resistance to the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887. This allowed Red Lake Nation members to hold their land in common and remain a closed tribal nation with its own legal jurisdiction.

“Treaties are the supreme law of the land. Treaties are the primary legal instrument between tribes and the federal government, and treaties are still in effect today,” RLNC instructor Devery Fairbanks said while addressing attendees.

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Devery Fairbanks, an instructor at Red Lake Nation College, speaks during an Indigenous Peoples Day event on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Red Lake.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

With RLNC and the Red Lake Chemical Health program planning the event, Fairbanks noted an interconnectedness between education and sobriety. This comparison comes on the heels of an advisory vote set for Tuesday, Nov. 8, where tribal members will decide whether or not alcohol sales will be permitted at the Seven Clans Casino in Thief River Falls.

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Clarissa Smith, left, and Nicole Robinson, of the Northern Winds Treatment Center, hold up signs during an Indigenous Peoples Day event on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Red Lake.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

At the time of the 1889 agreement, Chief May-dway-gwa-no-nind stated, “that no liquor shall ever come on this reservation, it would be the ruin of all these persons that you see here should that misfortune come to them.” Several attendees held up posters with that very quote.

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Participants march along Highway 1 during an Indigenous Peoples Day event on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Red Lake.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

“To me, sobriety and education go hand in hand,” Fairbanks added. “Sobriety is important because it affects our families, our children. As does getting an education, which has a very positive effect on our families and our children.”

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Attendees make their way through the food line during an Indigenous Peoples Day event on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, at Red Lake Lake Nation College.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Fairbanks also explained that education is the greatest equalizer for Indigenous people.

“One of the best things about sobriety is seeing people go from being uncertain to being excited. And likewise, one of the best things about teaching is seeing students go from being nervous to being confident,” Fairbanks left off. “This is what personal pride is all about: facing and conquering our fears.”

Such a sentiment concluded Red Lake Nation’s Indigenous Peoples Day celebration.

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Participants stand outside Red Lake Nation College following a march along Highway 1 during an Indigenous Peoples Day event on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Red Lake.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

The proclamations

Joe Biden was the first U.S. president to issue an official recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day in 2021 and did so again on Friday, Oct. 7, of this year.

“On Indigenous Peoples Day, we honor the sovereignty, resilience and immense contributions that Native Americans have made to the world,” the proclamation states, “and we recommit to upholding our solemn trust and treaty responsibilities to tribal nations, strengthening our nation-to-nation ties.

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Participants march along Highway 1 during an Indigenous Peoples Day event on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Red Lake.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

“For centuries, Indigenous peoples were forcibly removed from ancestral lands, displaced, assimilated and banned from worshiping or performing many sacred ceremonies. Yet today, they remain some of our greatest environmental stewards. They maintain strong religious beliefs that still feed the soul of our nation. And they have chosen to serve in the United States Armed Forces at a higher rate than any other group.

“Native peoples challenge us to confront our past and do better, and their contributions to scholarship, law, the arts, public service and more continue to guide us forward.”

Biden also proclaimed Columbus Day, which Congress made a federal holiday in 1934. However, some U.S. states are steering away from celebrating Columbus Day.

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Participants march along Highway 1 during an Indigenous Peoples Day event on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Red Lake.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

According to RLNC, 14 U.S. states and Washington D.C. celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day on the second Monday of October. More than 130 cities also celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.

RLNC also shared that the first state to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day was South Dakota in 1989 after the holiday was first proposed at a United Nations international conference on discrimination in 1977.

A livestream of RLNC’s celebration can be found on the Red Lake Nation College Facebook page.

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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