The drum, explains Carl Moore, is the heartbeat of Mother Earth, a revered matron who takes care of and provides for her people.
“That’s why we call it Mother because that’s what our mothers do. They do those deeds for us; they nurture us,” said Moore, chair of Peaceful Advocates for Native Dialogues and Organizing Support.
He made these remarks during the city’s inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day celebration moments before he and Mason Runs Through, a Provo resident and member of the Assiniboine Tribe, performed a traditional dance.
The movements, he continued, represent Native American warriors on the battlefield retrieving their fallen brethren. The story goes that it took several attempts to find and save the injured “on the third time we succeed we bring him back. And the fourth one is a victory. The fourth round is a victory of us dancing,” Moore said. “And this is a victory we can celebrate today, Indigenous Peoples Day.”
Festivities to commemorate Salt Lake City’s first Indigenous Peoples Day in the books took place outside the downtown library and featured traditional dances, songs and prayers, as well as some contemporary celebrations, such as DJ Beeso, a Navajo originally from New Mexico, who manned the turntable.
“This is a day to remember the true inhabitants of this land,” Beeso told City Weekly.
On Oct. 3, the Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously to declare the second Monday in October Indigenous Peoples Day, alongside Columbus Day, a federal holiday that many people find fraught due to Christopher Columbus’ ethnocentric and ruthless interactions with Native people in the Americas.
Moroni Benally, co-founder of the Utah League of Native American Voters, noted this would be a day Native American children could experience with pride, contrasting it to his own schooling where he was made to recite “a silly poem” about Columbus.
“Our children, our youth, Native youth will grow up knowing their history,” he said. “They will grow up knowing where they came from. They will grow up knowing the strength of their ancestors and what they did to be here. They will know the right version of history, and they will recognize where Columbus actually stands.”
Utah Diné Bikéyah, the organization that petitioned the government to designate Bears Ears as a national monument, was another organizing partner.
Advocate James Singer said whether white culture reckoned with Indigenous Peoples Day by recognizing atrocities suffered by Native Americans or viewed it as a threat, he had a message of hope for Native American communities: “Never feel as you do not belong. The holy people led your ancestors here, and you’re supposed to be here. Remember that our peoples have walked, lived, prayed, warred, died, worked and made love for thousands of years,” he said. “We shall remain for thousands more.”