OBERLIN — A warm, sunny afternoon drew dozens of people to the corner of North Main and West College streets in Tappan Square on Monday to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.
Local community members, Native American activists and Oberlin College students stood before Sundance, the executive director of the Cleveland American Indian Movement, an Oberlin resident who opened the celebration with a prayer. Sundance thanked the Earth, its inhabitants, the elements of nature, the Sky Father, Native American ancestors and many others for a brilliant day.
“I give thanks to the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the four legs that give us companionship and food and clothing,” he said in his prayer. “I give thanks to the two legs — to you. Some of us who have come from many distances, may the ancestors watch you as we depart today and always.”
This was Oberlin’s second official Indigenous Peoples Day. In 2017, Oberlin became the first city in Ohio to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Cindi Byron-Dixon, one of the original members of the Indigenous Peoples Day Committee, said she and others from the committee worked for months to put together a resolution for City Council.
“We’re just happy that it’s being recognized, not only for Native Americans but also for indigenous cultures worldwide who were affected by colonialism in a negative way,” she said.
In addition to the local indigenous community, the event included members from the Oberlin College group, Students for Energy Justice. The group works to unite students and community members around resisting what it calls extreme energy extraction and defending community rights over corporate interest, according to its website.
Oberlin College sophomore Isabel Tadmiri, a member of the group, said students wanted to show solidarity with the indigenous population who also have been affected by the construction of pipelines like the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“As some may not know, indigenous rights are a matter of environmental and climate justice rights as well,” she said. “It’s just really important to me to show up for this event and show up to support the indigenous peoples community, and also honor and celebrate.”
In addition to gathering in Tappan Square, a dancing and drumming event was later in the day.
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