Reflections on Indigenous People’s Day 2020

I’m still thinking about things I noticed and am trying to understand from Indigenous people’s day I attended in Des Moines. Besides all of what follows, it was an intensely spiritual time for me, and that I continue to feel.

I noticed every person was wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

There were tables with literature and staffed with people from the main organizer, Great Plains Action Society. And Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund.

I saw people I am just getting to know from working on the free food giveaway. People who I would not have known otherwise. Which shows how those involved in justice work support each other.

One jarring experience was hearing eloquent messages from people who could not attend the event because they were banned from the state Capitol grounds where the ceremony took place. Racial justice protesters banned from Iowa Capitol in “stunning misuse of power”

Ronnie James read what Matthew Bruce wrote in his Instagram post below (theblackartivist). “The same state that stole this land has the audacity to ban me from the capitol grounds.”

He also expressed what I felt in school: “I remember in school I remember having deep compassionate urges to learn more about the indigenous cultures who were presented to us as some ghost people of American history.”

“For now though, i know this; we- the black and indigenous survivors of this white war on humanity -are people with intertwined (if complicated) histories and one evil common enemy.”


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These are the words I wrote for the 10/12/2020 celebration of Indigenous People’s Day in Des Moines hosted by @greatplainsactionsociety . Id like to thank @effing.randy for delivering my words in solidarity. The same state that stole this land has the audacity to ban me from the capitol grounds. We gon figure it out in the courts 💯😌. Until then, enjoy. “To be honest, the thought of addressing indigenous humanity – whether at large or within the confines of this bankrupt state we’ve come to call Iowa – has always been daunting. For this reason I have, until now, avoided it entirely I remember in school I remember having deep compassionate urges to learn more about the indigenous cultures who were presented to us as some ghost people of American history; as if these people and their history had passed away into the halls of time in the middle of their sleep. I now know that said desires came from the subconscious understanding that the history of white people that existed in my head was a complete story and that the stories of indigenous people, just as the stories of my ancestors, were not. I still have much to learn. More than can be learned in a lifetime. I hope my children and their friends learn more than what I can imagine. I hope their seed has a planet to live on. For now though, i know this; we- the black and indegenous survivors of this white war on humanity -are people with intertwined (if complicated) histories and one evil common enemy. But more Important than all we share our dedication to our own spirit which has and will forge our way through the ages because as our ancestors have taught us, we are always building towards eternity.” #indigenouspeoplesday

A post shared by Matthew Bruce (@theblackartivist) on

Matthew is one of the protesters who have been arrested at demonstrations, and has been supported by the Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund. Mutual Aid in Des Moines is involved in distributing food, helping provide shelter for those who a houseless or evicted, and supporting those who are arrested for agitating for change by providing bail money.


Another speaker was Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz, who told us the following. You can read his entire statement here: https://www.afsc.org/story/remarks-indigenous-peoples-day-2020-des-moines

Mexico, the USA, and Canada in many ways represent forced assimilation, forced migration, history erasure and stolen lands. And all of that is of course still happening today.

Sometimes it’s trade deals written by mega corporations forcefully taking Indigenous lands and forcing my parents and many others to leave their families in order to find a job in the US so they can send money home. Other times, it’s climate change caused by corporate greed that is pushing communities from lands they’ve inhabited for centuries. Or maybe it’s imperialist military coups creating instability across the globe. What these colonists are saying is that you have to leave your lands, you just can’t come here. If you do come here, you have to act and sound like us and we can kick you out when we want. 

That mentality lives in our communities. It lives in our laws. Immigration laws that tell Indigenous communities that they are not free to roam the land that belongs to them. English only laws like the one in Iowa that say that in order to survive and succeed you must assimilate. A police state that incarcerates and enslaves BIPOC.  And economic laws that say that our communities can never be equal.

Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

Des Moines Black Lives Matter

October 12 at 8:50 AM  · You are living on and directly benefitting from stolen land, within a nation built by stolen bodies, which is the foundation of the police state that occupies these sacred grounds of the original peoples. #indigenouspeoplesday native-land.ca



I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James

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