Nebraska to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day as official state holiday next week

Native American history is fundamentally Nebraskan. On Monday, that history will be commemorated this year, and every year with Indigenous Peoples' Day.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Native American history is fundamentally Nebraskan. On Monday, that history will be commemorated this year, and every year with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The holiday has been celebrated in the city of Lincoln for several years now, but officially became a state law in 2020 with the adoption of LB848.

Judi gaiashkibos, who is the executive director of the Nebraska Commission of Indian Affairs, says she rarely heard Native American history discussed growing up off reservation in Norfolk, Nebraska.

“We were never talked about,” gaiashkibos said. “Only in negative ways, shaming ways about the savage, brutal Indians.”

It’s one reason Monday’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day will be a day of mixed emotions for her.

“For me, it’s like, ‘Finally! Why did it take so long?'” gaiashkibos said. “I think it took so long because people resist change. But it’s time for change for our first Nebraskans, for our first native people, so that we’re not invisible, so that we don’t have to be the missing and murdered indigenous people. We’re not throwaway people.”

Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, who introduced LB848, says that while the law technically took effect in 2020, last year’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration was compromised due to COVID-19.

This means that Monday will be the first official state celebration of the holiday.

“It’s a good way for Nebraskans to acknowledge and understand and learn about the first people,” Pansing Brooks said. “I just think it’s going to be a whole wonderful celebration and it’s long overdue.”

The Indigenous People’s Day celebration begins at 9 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda with flag dedication event followed a Powwow dance and drumming exhibition performed by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

As a part of the celebration, a statue of Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte, who grew up on the Omaha Reservation and was the first American Indian woman in the United States to receive a medical degree, will be unveiled at Centennial Mall.

In 1913, she opened the first hospital on an American Indian reservation. Despite her service to her state and country, she was not considered an American citizen at the time of her death in 1915, as Native Americans weren’t granted American citizenship until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.

“It’s a time to celebrate the untold heroes, the unsung heroes, the invisible people, and we will be inspiring young girls and all Nebraskans to try to live a life of service like Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte, because she doctored to all people, not just native people,” gaiashkibos said

Dr. La Flesche Picotte’s statue will be unveiled at 11 a.m. at Centennial Mall between L and M streets.

You can learn more about Lincoln’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration here.

Categories: Capitol News, Lancaster, Nebraska News, News