Indigenous Peoples Day returns to SOU

SOU commemoration of Indigenous Peoples Day returns as in-person event

(Ashland, Ore.) — The annual Indigenous Peoples Day celebration at Southern Oregon University is returning as an in-person event on Monday, Oct. 10. Indigenous Peoples Day amplifies Indigenous voices and celebrates the historic, cultural and contemporary presence of Indigenous peoples and Tribal Nations, who have persevered in the protection of Indigenous rights and cultural sovereignty, and continue to make significant contributions to the world.

SOU’s president announced in 2016 that the university would observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day after alumna Lupe Sims, a descendant of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, partnered with the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Committee to petition for recognition of Indigenous sovereignty. Formal observation by SOU was declared in June 2017, and  the Ashland City Council voted two months later to follow suit.

This year’s celebration – the fifth official observation of Indigenous Peoples’ day by SOU and the city of Ashland – will begin at 11 a.m. with a salmon bake in SOU’s Stevenson Union Courtyard (plates are $8, no charge for Elders). Sims, who is coordinating this year’s celebration, will deliver opening acknowledgements, followed by an honor song by host drum Screaming Eagle (the Jackson family of Klamath Falls), who were present at the first formal Indigenous Peoples Day event in 2017.

David West, a citizen of Potawatomi Nation and director emeritus of the Native American Studies department at SOU, will deliver the opening prayer, and SOU Provost Susan Walsh will read a Land Acknowledgment. SOU President Rick Bailey and SOU professor and former Ashland City Councilor Dennis Slattery will read declarations on behalf of SOU and the city of Ashland. Musician, traditional dancer and SOU Native Nations Liaison Brent Florendo (Wasco Band of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs) – will honor those recognitions with a hand drum song and will lead a community round dance.

The day’s events will continue with Indigenous advocacy at 12:30 p.m. in the Stevenson Union’s Rogue River Room, led by Tribal citizens including Elder and traditional ecologist and practitioner Joe Scott (Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and Takelma); Dan Wahpepah (Anishinabe, Kickapoo, and Sac and Fox); Rowena Jackson (Klamath Tribes); Chauncey Peltier, (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Fort Totten Sioux); and Antonio Bonilla (Afro-Taino). Tribal Elders West and Ed Little Crow (Lakota and Dakota) will hold an Elder discussion that is open to the community. Elder Mark Colson (Chehalis, Yurok and Dakota) will speak about Indigeneity and healing within Indian country in the present. Michele Pavilonis, of Lenape descent, will lead a Medicine Wheel Healing Support Group – a talking circle for finding and keeping balance – during the day’s events on SOU campus. The support group will be held in honor of breath and heartbeat.

SOU student-driven initiatives during this event include a formal recognition of the nine federally recognized Oregon Tribes and the continuing relationship between SOU and Indian country. That recognition will be in preparation for a permanent display and dedication of the flags of the nine Tribal Nations at a central location on campus in the upcoming year.

The Shasta Takelma Learning Garden working group, which is part of a larger Indigenous Gardens Network – a hub for Indigenous-led land projects centering on First Foods, land stewardship, educational opportunities and habitat restoration – will share about their place-making collaboration with the Siletz Tribes and Grand Ronde Tribes.

The student-led projects represent progress that has been made in the past five years toward SOU honoring the stewardship of Indigenous cultural sovereignty. Everyone is welcome and will have the opportunity to gather in community, and stand in solidarity, with Indian country and Native/Indigenous peoples. This is as drug- and alcohol-free event.