“Weaving a Basket of Hope”: Multnomah County Honors Indigenous Peoples Day


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October 11, 2021

“Every day is Indigenous Peoples Day.

This is how Brianna Bragg, (Ihanktonwan, French and Norwegian), describes the connection of the Indigenous community to its history and future. But the official declaration of Indigenous Peoples Day is yet another day to remember, Bragg said, as it represents generations of work to assert Indigenous sovereignty.

Observing and celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day is an act of healing and self-esteem, said Bragg, who works as a senior program specialist in the Multnomah County Public Health Division. It is an opportunity to recognize Indigenous heritage and to recognize and prioritize their history and survival.

“This day and this proclamation are important, not only to remember our history, but to reclaim it and celebrate the very fact that we are still here,” said Bragg. “Despite the historic and ongoing colonization and genocide, we are still here. Despite the erasure of data and the historization of us in textbooks and museums, we are still here.

Bragg was among the guests on Thursday, October 7, as the County Commissioners Council proclaimed Monday October 11 as Indigenous Peoples Day in Multnomah County. The proclamation featured Bragg’s testimony with Suzie Kuerschner (Haudenosaunee, Scottish and Irish), which has SPIRITS; Jillene Joseph (Aaniiih), the CEO of the Native Wellness Institute; and Jordan Mercier (Confederate Tribes of Grand Ronde), Cultural Education Coordinator for the Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center.

Multnomah County first recognized Indigenous Peoples Day in 2015, after the hard work of members of the Indigenous community like Anna Marie Allen and Nicole Buchanan. The celebration began as a counter-celebration of the ancient holiday, which evoked nefarious memories of the colonization and attempted genocide of indigenous peoples. Many governments have since started observing Indigenous cultures and heritage on this date.

“Every year more and more jurisdictions join the movement to celebrate the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day,” said President Deborah Kafoury. “In doing so, we continue to raise awareness that indigenous peoples are still here and that, despite centuries of systematic efforts to expel and forcibly eliminate indigenous peoples, they fought against genocide – not only to survive, but to prosper. ”

In another step forward, the county included funding for a tribal relations position in the government relations office in its final fiscal year 2022 budget. The position allows the county to develop services, engagement strategies and policies informed by the indigenous community living in Multnomah County and tribal governments.

“This council, as a whole, is truly committed to the principles of fairness in general and truly committed to the hard work of mending the broken bonds that our governments and tribes have had,” said Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson. “Partnership and collaboration with Indigenous tribes must become the norm, not the exception, in all of the work we do as a government. “

Weaving a “basket of hope”

While Joseph is the Executive Director of the Native Wellness Institute, she is also responsible for engagement for Future Generations Collaborative (FGC). Indigenous community members, organizations and tribal nations co-created the collaboration with the Ministry of Health in 2011 to promote healthy pregnancies and healing in the Indigenous community.

Through educational programming, community engagement, Indigenous-led assessment and research, and policy development, EGF strives to prevent the spectrum of alcohol-related disorders. fetal and lifelong support for families affected by FASD. Rates of fetal alcohol disorder are higher among Aboriginals and Aboriginals, although alcohol consumption among Aboriginal people is not higher than that of other groups.

Joseph uses the term “chemical warfare” to describe the impact of alcohol on Aboriginal people. Alcohol was unknown to the tribal people until European colonizers introduced it to alcohol hundreds of years ago.

“Hundreds of years ago our people experienced chemical warfare through the substance we now call alcohol,” said Joseph. “Today this spirit continues to haunt many of our people, and many of our people look to it for hiding and dealing with hurt and pain.”

The Future Generations Collaborative exists to alleviate the harm suffered by the Indigenous community. Most importantly, Joseph said, he seeks to bring healing – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

“I’m so grateful for the way you remind us of both the importance of remembering history, remembering the genocide, remembering oppression and using it not to get stuck there. , but as a mechanism to propel us forward ”, Commissioner Susheela Jayapal noted.

Kuerschner compared the Collaborative’s work to a basket of hope. Chains of traditional knowledge are contained in the warp and weft that are woven together to create the baskets that contain this hope, she said. In that basket, she added, are indigenous helping tools.

“Today is a day when we are truly grateful, deeply grateful, for the privilege of sharing this healing story and the beauty of remembering together,” said Kuerschner. “We are grateful for this day of respect.”

In a historic moment, Jordan Mercier, (Confederate tribes of Grand Ronde), paid homage to the ancestors of the tribal bands who lived on the land now known as Multnomah County by reading the proclamation in the Chinuk Wawa language, the language of the country.

“The Native American, Alaska Native, and Native American heritage of Turtle Island, or what we now call the United States, stretches from time immemorial and has a vital influence on the prosperity of our country. He said, repeating to Chinuk Wawa:

“Hayu x̣luyma shawash-tilixam ɬaska kəmtəks uk nim kʰapa uk iliʔi kakwa iɬagwa-tənəs-iliʔi. x̣luyma tilixam ɬaska kəmtəks uk bastən nim kʰapa uk iliʔi kakwa United States. kwansəm anqati uk shawash tilixam ɬaska miɬayt kʰapa ukuk iliʔil yakwa. uk kimtəks pi yaʔim kʰapa ɬaska munk kʰanawi tilixam manaqi skukum alta.

“I was so, so moved hearing the proclamation in the Chinuk language” Commissioner Sharon Meieran noted. “We have to recognize the history, the genocide, all the trauma that has happened in order to recover this history and move forward.”

“There is so much going on in our lives and in our world right now”, Commissioner Lori Stegmann added. “Sometimes it’s so important to stop, catch your breath and honor the contributions of our Indigenous and Indigenous peoples. ”

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