Day 12: Government Holidays & Indigenous Peoples

{DISCLAIMER: These reflections are solely my reflections from my journey as a Potawatomi woman. They do not reflect the journey or stories of every indigenous person, and it should not be assumed that every indigenous person has the same experiences. Thank you for joining me here. May we grow toward unity together.}


{Friends, we’re nearly halfway through this series on Native American Heritage Month!

Thank you so much for joining me in this space. My prayer is that it fosters curiosity and a desire to listen, learn, and build bridges & connections between native and non-native communities.}

The government has always played a large role in the oppression, genocide and removal of indigenous peoples in North America. Today, continued discrimination, constant battles with corporations that are often backed by the government, and fights over treaty land have not made the relationship better with time.

In recent years, with the change from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in some states, there’s a chance for the government to begin to do right by indigenous peoples.

However, matters are often left to grassroots organizations, teachers, communities, and parents to re-educate their children about the history of our holidays, such as Columbus Day or Thanksgiving. Our own President, who has numerous times used the slang term of Pocahontas, does not help us create a better environment for change.

Because we live far away from their days of origins, these holidays sit as steady landmarks to our nation, foundations that are not easily removed. But it is a place of respect and a willingness to listen when indigenous peoples bring up the pain that is associated with these and other holidays, holidays that are filled with colonial thought and thus, with racial nuances that truly only indigenous peoples or people of color could articulate.

So what if, at our Thanksgiving tables, we had honest conversations about what justice  and peace looks like, about how America has gotten some things wrong and about how things can be made right? What if practices in listening, true listening, are adopted in our communities?

What if we actually question our nation’s heroes and listen to the ones oppressed by them? What would that do to our society’s ideas and stereotypes toward native people?

This, of course, stirs up insane amounts of fear for those who are comfortable. And that’s exactly why the conversation needs to happen, friends. It doesn’t have to be hostile, but it does have to be at least a little uncomfortable.

For instance, here’s a link about Columbus you might want to read. 

And here’s a piece about Thanksgiving by my friend Randy Woodley. 

As I’ve learned more about my tribe, about our culture, about what it means to be Potawatomi and Anishinaabek, I sit in real tension with almost every American holiday. Because the foundations aren’t what they used to be. Because colonialism really is ingrained in everything, and because it is, Potawatomi people and other tribes in the United States are never really seen as we are and have always been.

And so, on both sides of the table, we have conversations to start and serious listening to do, and it’s about more than removing a statue of Christopher Columbus.

It’s about coming to grips with how this nation was started and what that leads us to today.


My book, Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places is out NOW! My hope is that it is a book you can read when things are quiet and you’re settled down for the evening. My hope is that you get to read it during those holiday naps, that you get to read a story with someone you love and talk about the stories that you’ve created together.

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