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“Every day is Indigenous Peoples’ Day” Southeast Minnesota Natives reflect on holiday’s national recognition

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) — Monday marked the first day in history that Indigenous Peoples’ Day became officially recognized by a U.S. President.

Many people recognize the holiday to honor the original people who lived in America.

Some people believe Christopher Columbus Day should not be celebrated because of his mistreatment of Native Americans who were already living in American once he arrived.

“Every day is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. I think it’s important that it’s being recognized nationally. It’s often overlooked,” said Gwen Westerman, Minnesota’s First Native American Poet Laureate.

Westerman is of the Dakota people. Dakota is the tribe Minnesota is built on.

“I have students who come to my classes at Minnesota State University Mankato, who learn about the history of the Dakota people and this place and the place names that are Dakota words, and they’re 18 and 19, and 20 years old. They say, ‘why is this the first time I ever heard about this?’ I wish I could give them the answer but I let them know that they’re hearing about it now,” she said.

Native Americans at the Prarie Island Indian Community believe that the holiday honored at a national level will help the nation further acknowledge American Indians

“This day is just a day for everybody else to recognize us because we don’t get recognized as much,” said Kennesey Taylor Western-Boy.

“I think it’s amazing that our kids are going to be seen for more than just another dark skin person,” said Charlene Roach.

Rochester Resident, Valerie Guimaraes, who’s of the Dakota and Houchunk nations, said the day is also about honoring those who came before us.

“This day is more somber for me. Trying to remember all the people who went on before me, whose backs that I stand on. I’m grateful for my ancestors and those that come before so I kind of just take a pause to reflect,” she said.

Johnny Johnson, the tribal council secretary at the Prarie Island Indian Community, agrees that reflection is a needed step to honor past and present Native people.

“It’s important to us to spread the word about our native people of where we were and now we’re were going,” he said.

“We have to think about all of the people who were here and who came here that make us the nation that we are, and realize that it’s more than Columbus,” Masterman said.

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