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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Indigicats welcome community celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The University of Arizona Indigicat Student Association held an all-day celebration for Indigenous Peoples’ Day with a variety of university affiliates and outside organizations on the UA Mall Monday.  

Indigenous Peoples’ Day generally falls on the second Monday of October as a day of recognizing that Native Americans were the first to inhabit the Americas and all that they have contributed to the world; the day was formally commemorated by President Biden in 2021.

For Mackenzie Schurz, who is from the San Carlos Apache Tribe, “Indigenous Peoples’ Day means you can actually be yourself.” 

Schurz, a freshman at the UA, had a heartwarming feeling being surrounded by people like her as she said she felt welcomed at the celebration. 

“It’s a day to show that we’re still here,” Schurz said. 

Schurz’s friend — also a UA freshman from the San Carlos Reservation — Ariana Ayze was joyful to share Indigenous traditions and culture with everyone on campus.

“It’s important to show that we survived through colonization and boarding schools,” Ayze said.

In the last hour of Indigenous Peoples’ Day festivities, the Chi’Chino Spirit O’Odham Dance Group began performing a series of traditional dances. The first was a dance that young male warriors, or cecegi’aḑkam, observed to make sure the land was safe for women and children after conflict had taken place. 

The dance was accompanied by a song called “Black Rain Cloud” which told the story of the anticipation of an immense storm and the vibration of the ground when thunder strikes. 

“The rain is precious and our ancestors knew this,” said  Kris Dosela, the leader of the dance group. 

A second dance followed in which two women displayed woven baskets. Historically, women in their tribe performed this dance when they were ready to be married. Dosela explained to the crowd that they were not chosen as wives for their looks, but rather based on how tightly woven their baskets were.  

“Think of it like this: You students here, your diploma is showing the people ‘this is the type of person I am. This is what I study. This is what I know,’” Dosela said.

“The Quail Song,” sung from the perspective of a baby quail, accompanied the final dance performance from the Gila River Indian Community’s Chi’Chino Spirit. Dosela said quails represent family to the O’odham people because they travel together in a line from tallest to shortest. 

The little quail singing “The Quail Song” says “I know where to get shelter and I know where to get food: by following those before me. By following the example of those in front of me,” Dosela said. 

As the quail dance wrapped up, Dosela called the audience to join the dancing. The crowd that had gathered on the outskirts of the grass quickly joined hands and started to dance in a circle. At this point, the music accelerated and rain started to fall as the sunshine remained. 

Valdeena Leeth watched the dancers with a smile from underneath her booth tent. Leeth, the artist of Contemporary Native American Jewelry, spent Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the UA for the first time this year.

She recalled that in high school, she was still seen as Indian, not Native American. 

“We weren’t really recognized for anything,” Leeth said.

Leeth is from the Navajo Reservation, but she also grew up in San Manuel. During her childhood, Leeth was living at a boarding school away from her parents. 

Leeth recently learned that there were two Native tribes in Tucson and she gained knowledge about her own tribe at the campus festivities on Monday. 

Leeth called the event a success, explaining that many people stopped by as they were walking past. For her, it was important that those individuals were exposed to Native American culture through performances and speakers.

To finish off the night, an Indigenous metal band called Guardians performed. The crowd rocked out as they closed the celebration.

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