Indigenous Peoples' Day 2021
Today, Governors State University joins the nation to celebrate Native Americans and all tribal nations as part of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, declared in a federal proclamation last week.
The proclamation acknowledged that “America’s first inhabitants” have been marginalized and underscored the government’s commitment to affirm the people who were forced to relocate from their homelands as part of the Removal Act of 1830. The Act granted Indian tribes land west of the Mississippi River if they agreed to give up their land. As incentive, the law provided Indians financial and material assistance to travel to new locations and guaranteed protection of the U. S. government, according to U.S. Dept. of State’s Office of the Historian.
The Oct. 8 proclamation declares Oct. 11 Indigenous Peoples’ Day and reflects on the nation’s assurances to all citizens, including those who were here before the U.S. Constitution.
“Our country was conceived on a promise of equality and opportunity for all people — a promise that, despite the extraordinary progress we have made through the years, we have never fully lived up to,” the proclamation reads. “That is especially true when it comes to upholding the rights and dignity of the Indigenous people who were here long before colonization of the Americas began. For generations, federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures.”
The National Congress of American Indians reports that, across the nation, there are 574 federally recognized Indian nations (variously called tribes, nations, bands, pueblos, communities, and native villages) in the United States. Approximately 229 of these ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse nations are located in Alaska; the other federally recognized tribes are located in 35 other states.
Chicago holds the third-largest urban Native American population in the country, with over 100 tribal nations represented, and more than 75 percent of all Native people living off-reservation and in urban settings
At GSU, where more than 60 percent of students are members of the BIPOC—Black, Indigenous, and People of Color—community, a small fraction identify specifically as American Indian/Alaskan. We recognize this tenacious, high-achieving group today and throughout the year and acknowledge that the land the university now occupies once belonged to their ancestors of the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Sauk tribes.
Long before the university stood on this soil, Indigenous peoples enriched and preserved the land that would one day be Will County. Their legacy of hard work and pride is carried forward from generation to generation, offering contributions to the Chicago Southland, the state of Illinois, and the nation.
Today, we honor the culture, heritage, and sovereign rights of Indigenous peoples and resolve to continue highlighting their unrelenting spirit and strides.
Carl Hampton, J.D.
Chief Diversity Officer
Governors State University