How I’m Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Activism |

Historian, activist, entrepreneur, and cultural preservationist Chenae Bullock shares what Indigenous Peoples’ Day means to her—and how you can get involved. Words by Chenae Bullock. Photos by Jeremy Dennis, Shinnecock Indian Nation and Charlotte “Charlie” Roe, Owner of Shinnecock Athletics and NDN Impact Media.

Indigenous people protect 80% of global biodiversity and comprise less than 5% of the world’s population. The role we have as Indigenous peoples is vital for all of humanity. In the face of unprecedented challenges, we need Indigenous ecological knowledge to restore the biocultural systems of coasts, waterways, plant life, and more. It is this resilience that I celebrate on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

My name is Chenae Bullock. My given name is Sagkompanau Mishoon Netooeusqua which translates in English to “I lead Canoe, I am Butterflywoman.” I am an enrolled member of the Shinnecock Nation and a proud descendant of the Montauk people, both located on the east end of Long Island, New York.

Photo by Jeremy Dennis, Shinnecock Indian Nation.

Photo by Jeremy Dennis, Shinnecock Indian Nation.

I am the owner of a cultural and heritage preservation firm called Moskehtu Consulting. I am also the managing director of my tribe’s cannabis business, Little Beach Harvest. As a historian, activist, entrepreneur, and cultural preservationist, I feel an inherent obligation to help preserve and protect the land we live on by practicing my ancestral cultural traditions. Oftentimes, that means standing up and speaking out, starting a business, or helping others.

Throughout the last several years, I’ve focused on innovative ways to provide access to my cultural teachings to people who are interested in becoming more connected to our earth. This began with canoe tours providing local Indigenous perspectives of the waterways and lands where we paddled. Most recently, I curated an audio tour of Indigenous plants for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden that focuses on the Indigenous oral history and perspective, and shares knowledge from an ebook I wrote titled, “50 Plant Medicines: Indigenous Oral History & Perspective.” 

Chenae Bullock

Photo by Jeremy Dennis, Shinnecock Indian Nation.

I understand that plants do not have a voice and it is my responsibility to not only speak up for them, but to help others see that we all share the same responsibility. I am passionate about cultural tourism and ecotourism because of the benefits and impact they provide—they create income for the local Indigenous community and participants of our programs become more culturally sensitive and aware.

Chenae Bullock

Photo by Jeremy Dennis, Shinnecock Indian Nation.

For many years, Indigenous People around the world have been pushing to reclaim the second Monday of October from “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” Prominent historians have heavily documented Christopher Columbus’ vast legacy of violence, slavery, and oppression of Indigenous peoples, and it is a critical time in our nation’s history where we must acknowledge and celebrate facts. Celebrating Columbus Day continues the cross-generational historic trauma being perpetrated against the Indigenous community.

Despite the deliberate and consistent genocide to our people, the missing and murdered, boarding and residential schools, the separation of families, laws made against our ways of living, and lands being stolen and destroyed—we have continued to be resilient and are still living in these traditional lands.

Chenae wears the Flatform Mevia.
Flatform Mevia sandals.

Photo by Jeremy Dennis, Shinnecock Indian Nation.

I honor Indigenous Peoples’ Day by advocating for New York City—the largest and most influential city in this country—to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. New York City’s celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day would contribute greatly to the healing of America’s Indigenous community, and it would honor this community’s resilience, strength, and ongoing contributions to American culture and history. Indigenous peoples and their voices are more important now than ever, with this community leading the way on the current, urgent issues like the growing call for greater environmental awareness and protections.

Chenae Bullock

 Photo by Jeremy Dennis, Shinnecock Indian Nation.

The states of Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, New Mexico, Maine, and South Dakota have officially designated the second Monday of October, the day still recognized federally as Columbus Day, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, joining an increasing number of localities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Seattle. New York’s Woodstock, Akron, Newstead, Ithaca, Rhinebeck, Rochester, and Triangle, and now Baltimore also recognize Indigenous People’s Day. It’s important to also understand there are so many Indigenous-led events happening to get their local areas to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day.

Does your city recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day? If not, ask yourself why—and more importantly, what you can do to advance recognition in your city or state.

Chenae Bullock

 Photo by Jeremy Dennis, Shinnecock Indian Nation.

This year, for Indigenous Peoples’ Day NYC, we’re gathering (safely) to ensure our community receives the celebration and honor it deserves. Many local Indigenous tribes and organizations have worked together over the last seven years to push New York City to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day and organize a free annual event that celebrates the resilience of Indigenous people.

Chenae Bullock.

Photo by Charlotte “Charlie” Roe, Owner of Shinnecock Athletics and NDN Impact Media. 

For 24 hours on Randalls Island, Indigenous leaders, elders, medicine people, cultural performers, and supporters from across North America (or Turtle Island, as many Native Americans and activists call it), are being joined by First Peoples from the Caribbean, Polynesian Islands, and South America. We’re convening and sharing traditions through song, dance, art, and prayer to honor our communal resilience.

Chenae Bullock

Here are a few ways to celebrate and support Indigenous Peoples’ Day:

  • Take an active approach to learn the history of Indigenous communities locally and worldwide. 
  • Help to amplify the voices in your local area that are trying to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. You can also lend your support by calling your representatives and expressing your perspective on the importance of recognizing the holiday. 
  • Become an ally by supporting a local tribal community near you. Native Land is a good place to start your research on which Indigenous tribes and/or nations originally lived on the land. From there, you can check out website links to each community or nation, which should provide more resources to get plugged in and offer support. 
  • Become a regular donor to Native and Indigenous-led organizations.
  • Support Native and Indigenous-owned businesses and voices. Follow, like, and share their pages! 
  • Follow my page @netooeusqua and use it as a resource.
  • Hashtags are a great way to become knowledgeable about current issues Indigenous People are facing. A few I’d recommend to get started would be: #StopLine3, #IndigneousPeoplesMovement, #RecognizeIndigenousPeoplesDay, and #MMIW  
Chanae Bullock.
Photo by Charlotte "Charlie" Roe.

If you would like to support Indigenous Peoples’ Day NYC visit www.IPDNYC.org to donate, or take virtual action by signing the petition to help Recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

If you would like to learn more about the different call to actions happening worldwide to help Indigenous peoples follow @indigenouspeoplesmovement on Instagram.

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