Photo Credit: Ehrlif, Getty Images

On this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 10, 2022, members of the Indigenous People’s Coalition affinity group at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation write letters to their ancestors to honor the gifts and legacies of those who came before them.

This day, recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, invites all of us to honor the sovereignty promised to our tribal nations, celebrate the contributions of Native people, recognize the perseverance of Indigenous peoples and commit to a future grounded in respect for the human rights of Indigenous peoples.

A poem to my ancestors

I am from everywhere and nowhere –
From you who owned land and you who knew land couldn’t be owned,
From you who chose your homes and you who were forced from your homes.
I am from a triad of your bloodlines that converged on American soil.

I am from you who were lauded for your “discoveries” –
From your Indian Removal Acts, from your slave ownership,
From your broken promises, treaties and policies,
From your hate, from your apathy, from your cognitive dissonance.
I am from your economic quests at the expense of my ancestors.

I am from your trails of tears –
From tears that still stain Turtle Island, from tears lost in the ocean,
From your genocide, murder, grief and sorrow,
From your soulful songs for those who were lost, but not forgotten.
I am from your struggle to survive with my ancestors.

I am from your movements –
From your protests, from your advocacy, from your voices,
From your resilience, patience and tenacity,
From you who helped my ancestors that didn’t look like you.
I am from your dreams to create a just and equitable America.

I wonder who you were when I look at old photographs.
I touch your faces. I hear your voices. I feel your hopes.
I search for you who are missing,
Almost everyone is a beautiful shade of brown in my photographs.
I am from a loving, compassionate and generous family.

I wonder if some of you realized that I would exist one day –
Because I am from you who were colonized and you who were colonizers.
But I am a part of you, just like you are a part of me.
I am from a triad of your bloodlines that converged on American soil.

Your struggle never went away – I am still from injustice and racism.
Your history has been revised – I am still from partial narratives and stereotypes.
I am still trying to understand your past in order to understand my present.
I am still seeking to create a better future for our descendants.
Because, I too, will be an ancestor one day.

I will be the best parts of you. I will be the best parts of me.
I will be the best parts of us.
And my descendants, your descendants, we will thrive.
We will have deep roots despite the partial family tree we see.
And we will be everywhere.


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