One of the best practices any of us can embody is one of honesty and truth-telling. However, to be honest about our history does not mean we have to feel ashamed about said history. Instead, we can accept the ideas of great leaders like Malcolm X when he says, “of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.” An honest accounting of United States history means we reflect on and acknowledge the Indigenous peoples who occupied the land where we now live and work. This is the meaning behind Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
What we simply refer to as Maryland was once the home of many nations including the Piscataway, Assateaque, Shawnee, Choptank, Accohannock, Delaware, Matapeake, Nanticoke, Pocomoke, and others. Our acknowledgement of the many Indigenous nations that occupied this land is a recognition of our shared prosperity and our need for cohesion and unity for Maryland to live up to its full potential. The spirit of collectivism often practiced by so many of these communities are embodied in the Labor Movement
The evidence of our commitment of respect for the many people who inhabited this land is present in the names of so many of our communities. Many Maryland municipalities, towns, and neighborhoods bear names that are derived from our Indigenous siblings. Schools and communities retain names that demand we recall those who were here to light the path for the rest who eventually followed. We think of our Indigenous family when we see Powhatan, Patapsco, and Susquehanna.
People of indigenous descent are all around us and help make up the rich tapestry of our state and make our communities more vibrant. We remember the atrocities committed against native people here in the United States and we use that as a guiding light to say never again. Never again in our name will we support those who would expropriate the land and labor of others simply because of their difference. As labor activists we know differences make us stronger and unite us in solidarity and should never again be used as a dividing wedge. That is a lesson we can all hold deeply this Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Learn more about American Indian and Alaska Native Families living in this urban environment with a visit to the Baltimore American Indian Center. More info is available at: BaltimoreAmericanIndianCenter.org.