On Oregon’s very first Indigenous Peoples’ Day, pride rang through the halls of Warm Springs K-8 Academy as young students beat their drums and sang traditional songs.
Middle school science teacher Jacob Billy said he spent the day teaching his students about the scientific achievements of Indigenous people.
“I’m very happy because when I was a little boy it was always Columbus Day, and it wasn’t a day that was very happy for most of my family and my friends,” he said.
The sounds of celebration took more than one form, in one of the state’s only elementary school Indigenous languages classes.
Students introduced themselves in both Kiksht (native to the Wasco tribe) and Ichiskin (native to the Warm Springs Tribe).
Numu (native to the Paiute tribe) is also taught and spoken in the class regularly.
Language teacher Lorraine Suppah started teaching at the school a few years ago to keep the languages alive in the youth.
“Indigenous day is every day, but if we can get that special day to acknowledge it, it’s good for us,” she said.
At Madras High School, a colorful commemoration was visible in the skirts, moccasins, and symbols worn by some of the students.
“You can be comfortable wearing it, not be embarrassed…we have to bring it back, you know?” Senior Hailey Cochran said.
A happy day…emerging from the grief of the past.
“It’s a good day to honor our people instead of honoring a guy who basically slaughtered a lot of our people,” Senior Shantelle Henry said.
Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, previously honored on Columbus Day, subjected Indigenous people to violence and slavery, as well as introducing diseases during his voyages at the end of the 15th century.
“We never really had a day, and usually when we have a day it’s due to mourning or something sad,” Senior Cha Cha Ramirez said. “And now it’s more about spreading positivity and awareness that we’re still here.”