By Eric Guzmán
n a beautiful Sunday afternoon, citizens of the community, along with some invited guests, have gathered in the performance space of The Culture Creators in Southwest Detroit. Sitting around a fire pit drinking hot cider and coffee, they have all gathered for a special event; the celebration of Indigenous People’s Day.
Aimed to replace Columbus Day, Indigenous People’s Day is a holiday to commemorate the lost lives of the native people during the time of colonization by Christopher Columbus and other Europeans. The holiday was proclaimed in Michigan back on October 14, 2019, by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. This year’s national day for the holiday was celebrated on October 10.
Michael Reyes, Co-Director of Culture Creators, established the Culture Creators program back in 2013 with Co-Director, Elizabeth Stone. The program provides a space for young artists to work on music, photography, videography, and art.
Reyes believes the Indigenous People’s event has the simple value of connecting with the native culture that already exists in the community. “Part of the event is acknowledging [that] the land we’re on is native land; It’s just a way to connect and have moments of solidarity between the Black community, the Natives from here, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and really a Culture Creator night, which is everyone,” Reyes said.
Native American coordinators Zack LaRiviere, a descendant of the Ketegzunzibii and Ojibwe tribes, and Jaike Spotted Wolf, who comes from three different affiliate tribes from North Dakota (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish) and serves as a water protector, started off with some opening words.
“We need [this] one day of celebration and acknowledgment to let people know that because we are 1% of the population we are still here and we still do things that are modern” Spotted Wolf says. “[This event to me means] the feeling that we are important and that we are welcomed on our own land and that we are involving other Indigenous people that we can find here.”
This event is exactly what Culture Creators is all about. “It’s in our name [Culture Creators], in some ways you’re creating a new culture and new ideas and remixing them to see what comes out on the other end, ”Reyes said. “But you need to have a foundation of knowledge and information about your own history.”
The theme of the event was to look at how far Indigenous People have come and to never forget about the work that it took to make this holiday become the focal point it has become in recent years, and also never forget that this is a continuous process. Southwest Detroit’s community is full of various mixtures of Indigenous people and cultures. Take the time to always grow and learn from your past whether it’s family members or your community.
Reyes even gives credit to today’s younger generation for the impact they have so early in their lives. “[Young creatives] are constantly pushing the boundaries and pushing what it means to be Mexican, Puerto Rican, [and] Native. Whatever their identity is, we give them a space to recreate it, build upon it, and push it”.
Photos by Alejandro Ugalde