NEW ORLEANS (press release) – On Thursday, Nov. 18, at 10:30 a.m., Our Voice Nuestra Voz (OVNV), the United Houma Nation, and community members gathered at the New Orleans City Council to support a motion by Helena Moreno to make Indigenous People’s Day a New Orleans city holiday. The motion passed, and the change will go into effect for the 2022 calendar year.
We are on Chitimacha land. The land surrounding New Orleans is stewarded by the Atakapa, Caddo, Choctaw, Houma, Natche, and Tunica. Land acknowledgment isn’t just about acknowledging that we’re on stolen land, it’s also about learning how to be good stewards of the land and how to be in the right relationship with each other.
At OVNV’s #BlackAndBrownGetDown last month, Council member at-large Helena Moreno announced a proclamation to officially acknowledge Indigenous People’s Day. The proclamation, written in partnership with Our Voice Nuestra Voz, acknowledges the occupation of Louisiana’s homelands and the fact that indigenous nations have lived on this land long before the city of New Orleans was ever created. Importantly, it also recognizes the work that indigenous groups have done in order to end the celebration of the colonizers who inflicted genocide and stole the land, and instead celebrate Indigenous People’s Day.
Yesterday, City Council took the next step by hearing a motion at their meeting, introduced by Helena Moreno, to add the holiday to the official calendar of New Orleans. Community leaders came out from across the city to make comments in support of the policy including Chief Creppel of the United Houma Nation. Dozens of comments were submitted virtually from those that could not attend in-person. The motion passed unanimously, and Indigenous People’s Day is now an official holiday in our city.
This holiday will serve to not just celebrate Indigenous peoples but to also, as a city, acknowledge that this land is not ours. We, as a city, have an opportunity to shift the narrative and the way people think. Land acknowledgement changes colonized mindsets and ahistorical narratives that have been instilled in us. These mindsets created and have sustained the oppression that Black and Brown people have faced for centuries. Becoming proper stewards of the land means we must change these mindsets. It helps us understand how we perpetuate injustices our communities face including housing, climate change, public health, education, criminalization, and food insecurity.
Mary Moran, executive director of Our Voice Nuestra Voz, stated, “If we understood how to be good stewards of the land and how indigenous people cared for the land and each other we would know that we don’t build prisons on our land. We build family, tradition, ritual and technology that strengthen and keep us for centuries. We make sure everyone has a home, food, and belonging. The people and the land have a spirit and we take care of it and protect it. We must continue to learn, and to listen so that we can decolonize and win justice.”
About Our Voice Nuestra Voz: Our Voice Nuestra Voz (OVNV) is a nation-building organization that builds solidarity with Black and Brown communities in New Orleans. We dismantle systems of oppression and create spaces for Black and Brown people to love, live, and thrive.