Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor Native American women

Students and members of the community gather in 2017 for Indigenous Peoples' Day. (Photo courtesy of Jenifer Van Schuyver) 

One in three Native American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. They also go missing and are murdered at an alarmingly high rate.

Adria Brown, a graduate student at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, hopes to address the crisis in both her work and her activism. As a social worker, Brown plans to serve Native American women as a policy advocate. And as a member of the American Indian Student Association, she is raising awareness through events like Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which takes place Monday, Oct. 8.

“We want to recognize these injustices and take a moment to honor and uphold the lives of indigenous women,” Brown said. “Native people are typically not thought of or are seen as a relic of a distant time. But these people are living and breathing and are experiencing inequities today.”

Events marking Indigenous Peoples’ Day have grown more popular in recent years. The day serves as a rebuttal to the federal holiday honoring Christopher Columbus and instead celebrates the original inhabitants of the Americas.

Brown

“We want to reclaim a day that has been historically set aside for a colonizer of the Americas to honor those who were once here, who are still here and who will be here in the future,” Brown said.

Though Brown embraces the opportunity to teach others about Native American communities, she also treasures being with her people. She participated in her first Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a first-year student at Dartmouth College, where she majored in Native American studies and art history.

“It was a totally new experience for me,” recalled Brown, who grew up in St. Louis. “We started drumming at midnight. I just felt like I was connected to other people in a really powerful way. We were able to really celebrate each other. I was really uplifted by that. It’s an experience I want to share with others here.”

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