By Sizwe Herring
NASHVILLE, TN — It’s been a long time coming but we have a local victory to honor. After
17 years of EarthMatters October gatherings at the Carver Food Park promoting Indigenous Peoples Day, along with the hard work of the Native American Indian Association and others, we now have legislation documenting Nashville is doing the right thing.
The afternoon started at the Casa Azafran Community Center with a celebration. Atty.
Albert Bender personally invited me to attend and I was proud to do so.
He began the program with a history of the actual “man” known as Christopher Columbus. He spoke of several of the atrocities he and his minions perpetrated on the Native people. These barbaric practices paled only to the treatment of African people enslaved as seen on movies like Roots, Django, Birth of A Nation, and others. Bender did not want to dwell on those facts because it was a celebration.
Bender announced the Resolution by the Metro Council. It was read and a sense of common sense fell upon those present. “Nashville can put itself into the noble ranks among the cities across the nation that recognize Indigenous People’s
Day!” It’s not a word we hear every day so as a refresher, here it is defined by Webster: Indigenous: native, endemic, aboriginal, belonging to a locality. Native implies birth or origin in a place or region. Indigenous applies to that which is not only native but which, as far as can be determined, has never been introduced or brought from elsewhere.
After the prayer, the crowd gathered into a circle and did the traditional Circle Dance. Youngsters and elders alike did a simple step together to show unity and determination. A local tribal Princess “gifted us” with a traditional dance in an elegant, colorful dress, sash, make up, headpiece and shell laden, skin boots. A grandmother elder gave a wonderful speech saying that because of Columbus (and his minions), Indigenous People proved that they were not going to let this horrific story define them. It proved that with the massive forces of evil against them, they prevailed.
The crowd then moved into the beautiful courtyard at Azafran to watch a traditional Aztecan Troupe teach through drum and dance. They first gave honor to the 7 (not 4)
cardinal directions. There were many movements, some joyous, some sad. Many honored the Earth and the natural world. All the while, powerful drums played with intermittent bellows of a perfectly pitched conch shell. The aroma of freshly dried, sage herb was burned the entire time and at the end, people were encouraged to come to share the fruit and flowers from the makeshift altar that the dancers danced around.
We came back in to traditional foods, including the hottest Mexican pepper this writer has ever tried to eat!
Monday evening we made our way to Buttrick Hall at Vanderbilt University. Albert was the guest speaker to a standing room only crowd, and he didn’t hold back. His powerpoint was rife with photos, posters and evidence of some of the most inhumane actions perpetrated on fellow men, women and children. Bender kept saying “what kind of person would…” Barbaric atrocities like feeding natives to fierce dogs, repleat with canine armor from head to tail. He spoke of giant cesspools where native men
women and children would be thrown. When they tried to get out they would be pushed back down with poles to forceably drown them in urine and feces. Babies were abused and kicked around like balls and sexual pervertedness reigned.
The Vanderbilt students had many questions, from what we can do to help Indigenous People today, and why we were tricked into believing Columbus was a hero.
It was a tragic part of American history that needs to be exposed. When light shines, healing begins.