BOZEMAN — Half a foot of snow and freezing temps did not stop people from dancing to the beat of drums last night on Peets Hill as Bozeman residents gathered to celebrate Indigenous People's Day.
Hundreds of people gathered hand in hand and participated in a round dance which is a traditional social dance, led by the rhythm of the Bear Canyon Singers. They danced on a snowy trail framed by 7 large teepees overlooking Bozeman.
It was a celebration of Indigenous culture through dance, and light the event hosted by Mountain Time Arts.
Those gathered heard a land acknowledgment and a proclamation from Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus.
“To acknowledge that we are on the homelands of Indigenous s people. Many of whom have traditional claims here,” read Andrus. “ Let us commit to responsible stewardship of the land and respect for the first nations who remain part of the past, present, and future of this place we call home.”
Other speakers included Doctor Walter Fleming, head of Montana State University’s Department of Native American Studies, who delivered a blessing offering words of resilience.
Former Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau spoke to the next generation in hopes to inspire more education of indigenous history and education equality across the state of Montana.
“Indigenous Peoples Day is a reminder to continue to educate ourselves,” says Juneau. “It's a day for people to reflect on the past injustices and the strength of our native ancestors. It's a day to celebrate current indigenous people, our progress, and our ways of being. It's a day to look to the future and to commit to find a way to support the next generation.”
Those who attended say that the focus of the holiday is to celebrate but also to learn about the history of Indigenous people across Montana and the United States.
“I would love for people to do as much research as possible. To learn about all that we have been through because I know not a lot of people learn that in schools,’’ says Maleeya Knowshisgun, Miss Indian of Montana State University. “I’d love to learn about the genocides and all the hardships that we have been through, and also how we've overcome that.”
There is still time to catch the teepees on Peets Hill. The last night to see the teepees bathed in light will be October 17 and they will come down the next day. Mountain Time Arts is still asking for donations that make art exhibits like this possible. If you would like more information on how you can help you can visit Mountaintimearts.org