Indigenous communities across the country united on Monday, October 10th to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day. For over a century, this date has been a federal holiday upholding a “conqueror” narrative, to the detriment of Native peoples. In 2021, President Biden formally declared that the nation honor Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time, and New York Governor Kathy Hochul followed suit. But in 2022, the celebrations of Native heritage gained even more widespread activations.
Watch Honeysuckle's highlights from Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations on Randall's Island, and historic campaigns in Columbus Circle and Times Square, featuring Dine rapper Def-I!
Indigenous Peoples Day NYC 2022: Honeysuckle, Shinnecock Nation And Partners Say Plant Medicine Is Ancestral Medicine
This year, Honeysuckle and its partners created a multimedia blitz that took Indigenous Peoples Day to new heights. Working with the Shinnecock Indian Nation, TILT Holdings, Little Beach Harvest, and the Indigenous Cannabis Coalition (ICANNC), Honeysuckle built off of previous Indigenous-focused initiatives to emphasize the links between plant medicine and ancestral traditions.
Among the efforts to pay tribute to Indigenous Peoples Day - which still has yet to be officially recognized in New York City despite Governor Hochul’s statewide declaration in 2021 - the partners launched Times Square and Southampton billboards, stencils around Columbus Circle, and a landmark campaign atop a fleet of Manhattan taxicabs. The latter was the first-ever cannabis-themed cab swarm in New York State’s history. It literally drove home the message that Plant Medicine = Ancestral Medicine!
“Working with Indigenous partners and allies is among the most important work we’ve done,” said Honeysuckle founder Ronit Pinto. “Preserving their histories while amplifying the historical lessons they continue to pass on is critical for the well being of our planet and the ways in which we treat one another.”
Indigenous Peoples Day NYC Committee Holds International Gathering On Randall's Island
Earlier in the day, First Nations members from all over the world had journeyed to New York’s Randall’s Island for the 8th annual event held by the Indigenous Peoples Day NYC Committee (IPDNYC), co-founded by Cliff Matias. Although New York City’s Columbus Day parade occurred on Fifth Avenue, the IPDNYC event saw a full 24 hours of festivities, honoring ancestors, and hearing testimony from a veritable who’s who of speakers and performers. The tribes and affiliates organizing the convocation again included the Shinnecock Indian Nation, the Unkechaug Nation, the Schaghticoke First Nations, the United Federation of Taino People, the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation of New Jersey, Redrum Motorcycle Club and its sister RedSpirit Women’s Motorcycle Club (community organizations modeled after the original Iroquois Five Nations), Redhawk Indigenous Arts Club, and the Native American and Indigenous Students at Cornell University.
Chenae Bullock, a member of the Shinnecock Nation who serves as Managing Director of Little Beach Harvest and Co-Chair of IPDNYC, was spotlighted in the Ancestral Medicine media campaign. She acknowledged the power of the blitz, while also reflecting on the immense significance of the Randall’s Island gathering.
“The weekend was filled with blue skies and bright stars and a full moon,” Bullock described. “There is no greater feeling than being surrounded by genuinely good spirited people from all walks of life. For the 8th year Indigenous Peoples came from across the global to gather in harmony sharing stories, songs, dances, prayers, and calls to actions for the various movements the are happening in their homelands. Randall’s Island being the central gathering place for 24 hours, New York City was filled with so much awareness on IPD this year. So many Indigenous People were so uplifted to be a part of the amplification of IPD throughout New York City. This year [at] the water ceremony [one of the event’s most sacred rituals], there was more water brought from various oceans from around the world than we have had in the last 8 years. Seeing the returning faces and people bring their family and friends each year has been an answer to a lot of Indigenous call-to-actions, as we know advocating for the environment is a call for humanity to come together collectively and that is what we pray for, everything, for IPDNYC.”
Who Performed At And Sponsored The Indigenous Peoples Day NYC Event At Randall's Island?
Musical performances and storytelling were pivotal to the IPDNYC program on Randall’s Island. Grammy-nominated artist and activist Fyütch; award-winning recording artist Michelle Thomas, known as Navajo Goddess; Shinnecock singer-songwriter GianniVV; Dine rapper Def-I, and many more were on hand to raise the consciousness of those in attendance.
Honeysuckle Media was proud to be a partner at this unique gathering, alongside Def-I and the New York State Council on the Arts, Moskehtu Consulting, ConEdison, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Water Protector Legal Collective, Perrier, North Star Fund, Americans for the Arts, the Urban Indigenous Collective, NY Renews, Kinding Sindaw, Project Barkada New York, DanceNYC, The Brand Phoenix, Rebecca Gitana, and Solwave New York.
Def-I later joined Team Honeysuckle in Times Square to witness “Plant Medicine = Ancestral Medicine” writ large atop the iconic 1540 Broadway building. Spinning verses about the impact of Indigenous Peoples Day, Def-I was accompanied by members of various First Nations who had made the trip from the Southwest to New York for the Randall’s Island event. They included musician Emilio Tirado (Arawak and Taino), artist and silversmith Damian Cotton (Navajo and Mississippi Choctaw), and advocate Ashley Becenti (Navajo).
Plant Medicine Is Ancestral Medicine: Indigenous Milestones In The Cannabis And Hemp Industries
It’s a pivotal moment in our culture for the rights and actions of Indigenous communities to be brought to greater light. Everything we know about healing and social justice begins with their traditions. Indigenous communities have viewed cannabis as a sacred plant for centuries, and have used it in conjunction with other ancestral herbs for medicine and in a variety of other applications.
In September, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded a Climate-Smart Commodities grant of $15 million to the Wisconsin-based hemp company Canndigenous. Through the grant, Canndigenous, Iconoclast Industries, and several major university and business partners will fund the research and development of industrial hemp as a climate-smart commodity. Canndigenous is the only tribal-member owned entity to receive funding from this USDA program to date, making the award a significant milestone for Indigenous entrepreneurship. It also proves that the federal government and mainstream businesses are taking the Indigenous approach to plant-based solutions seriously.
Canndigenous founder Rob Pero, a member of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is also the founder of marketing and consulting firm Perodigm Media, as well as founder and CEO of the Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association (ICIA), a national trade organization established in summer 2022 to support Indigenous interests in the emerging cannabis industry. Mary Jane Oatman of the Nez Perce tribe was appointed ICIA’s Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director. She is the founder of the Indigenous Cannabis Coalition and has been a major force in the wider media’s recognition of First Nations narratives over the past several years, including this IPD’s blitz and numerous other barrier-breaking campaigns with Honeysuckle.
The pathways are more open than ever for Indigenous communities to share their experiences and wisdom, to teach people everywhere how to synchronize with nature and the Earth, to set a course for universal healing. Can society learn from the mistakes of the past to uplift us all toward understanding and amplification - without colonization? We hope. We work. We honor.
We recognize the Ancestors.
For more information about IPDNYC and how to connect with New York's Indigenous communities, visit ipdnyc.org. To learn more about Chenae Bullock and the Shinnecock Indian Nation, visit moskehtuconsulting.com. For more on Little Beach Harvest, visit littlebeachharvest.com.
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Featured image: The "Plant Medicine = Ancestral Medicine" Indigenous Peoples Day campaign in Times Square (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture