The city of Flagstaff is hosting a virtual celebration today in honor of Indigenous Peoples Day. Event organizers say this is an opportunity for native and non-native people to understand the violent history of colonialism – and also to imagine a better future. Melissa Sevigny from KNAU spoke to two Diné speakers, Rose Toehe and Carmenlita Chief, at today's event.
Rose Toehe: My name is Rose Toehe and I work in the city of Flagstaff as a coordinator for indigenous initiatives.
Carmenlita Chef: And my name is Carmenlita Chief … I work as a senior program for the Center for Health Equity Research at NAU.
Melissa Sevigny: Carmenlita Chief For you personally, how important is Indigenous Peoples Day?
Carmenlita Chef: The meaning of Indigenous Peoples Day is definitely to stop and celebrate the resilience and contributions of our beautiful nations and cultures. Most importantly, this day provides a platform to present an accurate representation of indigenous history and contemporary existence which is also part of the healing process from centuries of oppression, violence and trauma.
Melissa Sevigny: Rose, do you want to add something?
Rose Toehe: To top it off, I think this type of virtual reality really helped us now connect people across the country to take part. In particular, those who have not come into contact with their own cultural identity have the opportunity to reconnect.
Melissa Sevigny: Can you talk about how indigenous knowledge can help with the current challenges in our society? Carmenlita, let's start with you.
Carmenlita Chef: When I look at indigenous knowledge, for me it is central to the indigenous knowledge system that there is a strong focus on relationships. We as humans have no higher position than animals, plants or other life forms with whom we share this earthly space, but we work together because we all have gifts of knowledge … I think when we talk about indigenous knowledge, this is how it goes about getting others to understand that we have responsibilities as you try to find solutions to many of the challenges such as climate change or health inequalities that indigenous peoples are most vulnerable to in these relationships.
Rose Toehe: And I think this is something that people are starting to realize that there is very ancient knowledge that can really potentially and certainly help our society today. Because too often people were only taught to take from the earth and not give anything back. All this interdependence has been forgotten.
Melissa Sevigny: You both talked about Indigenous Peoples Day as an opportunity for healing … I'm curious to see if there is anything you think non-indigenous people should do on this day … to further this goal of healing?
Carmenlita Chef: Perhaps one thing to keep in mind, first of all, is that they are not actually relying on Aboriginal people to educate you and tell you about these things. In this age of digital technology, we now have enough resources. There are so many Native American videos out there, even Native TikTok is out there, Native Twitter, all of those resources are out there. Do not rely solely on indigenous peoples to educate and broaden your person-to-person perspective. Go out and do your own research.
Rose Toehe: I come from the spiritual side first. As I think about what kind of healing could come from some activities and have a day planned for it, I hope people will get up early and pray for a successful time together.
The presentations are practically taking place today, starting with a traditional prayer at 9 a.m. and ending with a recipe demonstration at 3 p.m. You can find the event schedule here: https://www.flagstaff.az.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1441