Today we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which is an opportunity to acknowledge the history of colonization that shapes our current moment while celebrating and centering the lives and experiences of contemporary Indigenous people. In becoming the first U.S. president to formally recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, President Biden’s proclamation noted: “For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures. Today we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact they have made on every aspect of American society.”
The places where we all live, work, and play are on land that has been stolen from Indigenous communities, and it is important that we first acknowledge that and then find ways to take action. IllumiNative, a Native-led nonprofit, has fantastic resources available, including an Indigenous Peoples’ Day Toolkit that offers an excellent overview of today’s importance and ideas for advocacy and celebration. Many of our communities have events today, including virtual options, and we hope you’ll be able to participate. (While you’re sitting at your desk, you can even take a few minutes to tune into Seattle’s KEXP for Indigenous music throughout the day.)
In addition to local celebrations, it’s critical that we, as a firm, recognize the historic and intrinsic relationship and impact our work in planning, and specifically transportation, has had on Indigenous people and their land. As practitioners, we must acknowledge this painful history and work to heal and reconcile harms going forward, ensuring we are engaging and working alongside Indigenous communities to create thriving, inclusive, and culturally relevant places and spaces.
There is much we can learn from Indigenous cultural identity and knowledge when it comes to forming more reciprocal relationships—or being in right relationship—with the land, ecosystems and the natural environment, and places. So much of the learning and lessons are rooted in personal experience and handed down from elders in the form of sharing and listening to oral histories, stories, and ceremonies. This includes practices related to land and resource management, which are passed down and adapted from generation to generation.
We invite you to consider what it would look like for our work, and the planning profession as a whole, to think of adaptation in this way. What if we centered an ecological consciousness? What if we reshaped our measures of success to focus not just on the immediate benefits a project or recommendation would create for one person or segment of a community but what it would mean for the broader community AND the natural world? How much healthier might our systems and future be?
Indigenous Peoples’ Day brings people together as we acknowledge—and seek to heal—past harm. Through that healing is an opportunity to write a better story for us all, and we’re happy to celebrate and work toward that future with you.