All Things Indigenous: Celebrating, Remembering, and Building Power in the Hesápa on Indigenous Peoples’ Day 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Rapid City, SD began with memory. Remembering the Children, a walk hosted by the Rapid City-based organization of the same name, honored those who attended or perished at the Rapid City Indian Boarding School and the Sioux Sanatorium TB Clinic.

Remembering the Children is an organization whose mission honors the lives, memories and spirits of the children and relatives who lived and passed at the hands of these institutions.

The walk began at Sioux Park and ended at the future site of the Remembering the Children memorial where Amy Sazue, Executive Director at Remembering the Children, shared the intention behind the organization and the forthcoming memorial. Amy was followed by Rapid City Mayor, Jason Salamun, who read the executive order proclaiming October 9th, 2023, the Day of the Children. 

The walk and declaration serve as a reminder of the ongoing fight for acknowledgement and recognition of our relatives as well as the schools that routinely stole Indigenous children from their families. While Indigenous Peoples’ Day is revered as a day of celebration, it is equally important to recall this history of theft, committed to upholding the memory of the children who endured this violence and never forgetting their names. 

Later that same day, NDN Collective hosted the first-ever Rapid City Indigenous Peoples’ Day march and celebration. The community as a whole was invited to enjoy music by Indigenous artists, bounce houses for kids, food trucks, vendors and information booths representing various Indigenous-serving organizations. 

Participants in the IPD rally gather at the Memorial Park bandshell to kick off the march to Main Street Square. Photo by Angel White Eyes for NDN Collective.

“This event is to celebrate being Indigenous,” said Murray Lee, NDN Collective Director of Community Engagement. “South Dakota was the first state in the nation back in 1990 to change Columbus Day to Native American Days so it’s to recognize that and the community in which we live.”

Scores of people joined NDN Collective to march from the Bandshell at Memorial Park to Main Street Square, where the performances and festivities took place. Among the crowd were locals as well as families that drove from out-of-state to celebrate the day. NDN Collective spoke with attendees on what Indigenous Peoples’ Day meant to them, and asked fun questions ranging from which character from Reservation Dogs they felt represented them, and their ways of celebrating the day. 

Attendees marched down 6th Street to Main Street Square, blocking traffic at the Omaha Street intersection. Those leading carried a 50-foot banner that read: Indigenous Peoples’ Day LANDBACK. The walk to Main Street Square was filled with chants, war hoops, and singing as a small hand drum was passed among the crowd. 

Students from the Oceti Sakowin Community Academy sing a song in Lakota for the crowd. Photo by Erica Pretty Eagle Cozad for NDN Collective.

As the crowd turned the corner into the Main Street Square, music from DJ Mobil, Pueblo of Jemez, greeted everyone as world renowned powwow MC, Reuben Little Head, Northern Cheyenne, announced the arrival of marchers. 

The afternoon unfolded into uplifting and inspiring music by Indigenous artists from far and wide, sharing a variety of styles. The first of these artists were the students of the Oceti Sakowin Community Academy who sang a prayer song in Lakota for the event and all in attendance. The children attending the Academy receive a holistic and inclusive education that supports Indigenous teachings and history. 

Mic Jordan, Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, took to the stage first. 

Mic Jordan performs at Main Street Square. Photo by Erica Pretty Eagle Cozad for NDN Collective.

“If y’all feel blessed I want you to put your hands up!” he said, raising his hand above a crowd who mimicked his action. “I feel blessed to be here on Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrating our collective liberation.” 

His music spoke to the blessings and gratitude of his life and that of Indigeneity. The hardships, highlights and beauty of the Native experience from youth to elders. 

Shortly after, more artists took the stage including: Nevada Brave, Oglala Lakota; Mato Wayuhi, Oglala Lakota; the Bearhead Sisters, Nakoda and Cree; and Yung Kitto, Dakota and Red Lake Ojibwe. While performers brought the energy onstage, elders and young children collectively moved to the music off-stage. 

Participants in the crowd join in on the concert. Photo by Erica Pretty Eagle Cozad for NDN Collective.

“I had a wonderful experience performing for my friends and relatives in Mni Luzahan on Indigenous’ Peoples Day,” Mato Wayuhi said. Mato has been working as a music producer, rapper, and singer for several years and has provided the music score for films and television including the hit FX show, Reservation Dogs

“We got some butts out of their seats to dance, which is always the goal,” he said. “The entire event was very special – I’m proud of everyone involved and excited to see how the celebration grows.” 

As music was being performed on stage, traditions were being taught in the street. NDN Collective local organizer Anissa Martin, Oglala Lakota, provided tipi demonstrations with Lakota Women of the Plains on Main Street while onlookers watched. One of the tipis had pre-stenciled art for event attendees to paint. 

Anissa Martin and relatives put up one of three tipis on Main Street in downtown Rapid City. Photo by Angel White Eyes for NDN Collective.

The inaugural NDN Collective Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration ended with a war hoop and lili contest, a call known among some tribes as an honoring or cheer of support. Audiences remained as the line of competition participants wrapped around the corner. Children and elders joined the contest, all in good fun serving as a final celebratory moment, illustrating the beauty and joy of being Indigenous every single day. 

NDN Collective was honored to host this event, and we look forward to our next year of celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day in MniLuzahan.

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