'Beyond beautiful': Native Americans celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day

Anishinabe Academy students march in an Indigenous People's Day parade.
Students from the Anishinabe Academy in Minneapolis march in an Indigenous People's day parade in St. Paul, Minn. on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News

From protests to parades, Native Americans on Monday celebrated Indigenous Peoples' Day — a reclaiming of a holiday once dedicated to Christopher Columbus.

Some recalled how as children, their parents offered a narrative of Columbus that was far different from what they learned in school.

"He was lost. He never really discovered America because we were already here," said John Bobolink, who helped organize a parade in St. Paul. "Some of the atrocities he performed on our people — it's not a pretty story."

Mike Eagle Tail marches alongside children.
Mike Eagle Tail marches alongside children from the Anishinabe Academy during an Indigenous People's day parade in St. Paul, Minn. on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. Eagle Tail has 3 children who attend the school.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The marchers, many of them schoolchildren, walked through the rain from the American Indian Magnet School to the Indian Mounds Regional Park on the city's east side. The weather caused several schools to withdraw from the parade, but at least 150 people showed up to march. The festivities continued in Minneapolis throughout the afternoon.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

The parade has been held on the second Monday of October for the past several years, following the 2014 decision of Minneapolis to change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day, Bobolink said. St. Paul followed suit the following year. San Francisco, Cincinnati, Denver and a host of other cities continued the trend.

Nina Berglund, 19, got a head start on the day with an act of protest. On Sunday evening, she and some friends headed to the Minnesota State Capitol and threw a sheet over the statue of Christopher Columbus, so it looked like he was wearing a red dress. Berglund said it was in honor of missing and murdered indigenous women.

A statue of Christopher Columbus adorned with a red sheet.
A statue of Christopher Columbus at the Minnesota State Capitol is adorned with a red sheet on Sunday, Oct. 7, on the eve of Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Courtesy Photo from Nina Berglund

"Every single native family I know has a story like that," she said. "They have a family member who was assaulted, they have a family member who was raped, they have a family member who they don't even know what happened to them."

But the day was also about simply celebrating a culture that for centuries had been repressed, she said.

"It's just beyond beautiful to see these young people so proud of who they are," she said.