Why Native acknowledgements are important.

Today, October 10 is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. “Indigenous people” is a broad term that refers to any culture that lived in a place first. It is good practice that we honor the original inhabitants, understand the losses they suffered and recognize the inequities that exist in our treatment of indigenous people.

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According to Howard Zinn’s “A people’s history of the United States,” in 1515, there were perhaps 50,000 Indians left and by 1550, there were 500. Today, approximately 1.5% of the U.S. population — 4.1 million Americans — identify themselves as having American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) heritage.

It’s important that we acknowledge the truth that the historic homelands that we are on were originally inhabited by indigenous people. Taking a moment to authentically recognize the sacrifices of the original inhabitants not only shows respect but also progress towards social justice. And, it can be done in a simple sentence like: ” We would like to take a moment to recognize the sacrifice of the tribes (name them) that once lived and thrived here.”

Most American Indians now live in Western states, with 42% in rural areas compared to 23% of whites. In 1980, most American Indians lived on reservations or trust lands, compared to only 20% today. Over 50% now live in urban, suburban, or rural non-reservation areas.

American Indians speak over 200 indigenous languages. Approximately 280,000 speak a language other than English at home; more than half of Alaska Natives who are Eskimos speak either Inuit or Yup’ik.