In a display of unity, respect, and cultural celebration, Seattle marked its second official Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday. Hundreds gathered at Westlake Park, marching through downtown Seattle to commemorate the occasion with a theme that resonated throughout the day: “Honoring our elders: Past and Present.”
This marked the city’s second observance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday embraced by 10 states and over 100 cities across the United States in place of Columbus Day. The shift is a response to calls from Indigenous groups and activists to acknowledge the deep-rooted history of Native communities in the Americas, often overshadowed by the celebration of Christopher Columbus, the Italian navigator associated with colonialism.
Seattle’s celebration commenced at Westlake Park, where more than 200 individuals gathered for a morning march organized by the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. The march was followed by a meaningful assembly at Seattle City Hall. The evening festivities continued at the Daybreak Star Cultural Center in Discovery Park, featuring activities such as bingo, dinner, and a jam session. Participants were encouraged to don traditional regalia and bring instruments like drums, rattles, or flutes to contribute to the communal jam session.
The day’s events began with a Salish prayer, setting the tone for a series of speeches, songs, and expressions of gratitude, aligning with this year’s theme of honoring elders. Speakers addressed critical issues, including the high incarceration rates of Indigenous people, cultural genocide, unequal access to federal resources, the enduring impacts of colonization, and the concerning rates of missing and murdered Indigenous individuals.
Representatives from Pacific Northwest tribes, including the Duwamish Tribe and Muckleshoot Tribe, lent their voices to the gathering. Lummi Tribe member Temryss Xeli’tia Lane took the stage with her son, emphasizing the unity of both Native and non-Native individuals in paving the way forward.
As the day unfolded, a vibrant crowd assembled, equipped with drums, enjoying free waffles and warm drinks. Drum circles resonated through the gathering, and the march began, weaving its way through downtown along Fifth Avenue.
Stevie Myer, a member of the Alaska Aleut tribe, celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day in honor of her great-grandmother and grandmother, forcibly removed from their homeland during World War II. “It feels like we can honor her in a different way by doing things that she wasn’t allowed to do,” Myer expressed.
Tess Abrahamson, another participant, emphasized the significance of celebrating ancestors’ achievements. “We’re celebrating all that our ancestors did to be here,” Abrahamson stated.
The march, accompanied by drumming and singing, made its way through downtown, stopping at intersections for drum circles and songs. Onlookers from downtown stores, bus stops, and vehicles captured the gathering on their phones.
Reflecting on the celebration, Aimee Francy Le, who has been part of Indigenous Peoples’ Day festivities since 2014, expressed, “I think Indigenous people should be celebrated every day, not just today. It’s important to me.”
In this spirited celebration, Seattle not only honored Indigenous Peoples’ Day but also echoed a call for ongoing recognition and appreciation for Indigenous communities’ rich heritage and contributions.