Indigenous Peoples' Week started Tuesday, Oct. 8, with a gathering at Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union. The event featured a showcase of traditional artwork, an honor song and a speech from U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids.
Davids, who represents the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas, spoke at the event put on by the Indigenous Peoples' Day Committee. The event marked the first day of Indigenous Peoples' Week and involved Native American faculty and staff at the University of Kansas and First Nations Student Association. Davids' speech also included students from Haskell Indian Nations University.
Chancellor Douglas Girod and Haskell Indian Nations University President Daniel Wildcat introduced Davids. Wildcat spoke directly to her in the audience.
“I think that, Sharice, everything said and done, we're thankful that you have chosen this form of leadership,” Wildcat said.
Wildcat said women have always played an important role in native society, and there is pride in her being one of the first Native American representatives. During her speech, Davids spoke on the importance of having Native American voices in government.
“I realize it's not that I was lucky that they selected me — it’s that people like me absolutely should be in the room. We have to be in the room because if we're not, then whole communities get left out of conversations,” Davids said. “Sometimes it's intentional. But a lot of times, it's unintentional. And that's, I think, more dangerous.”
Along with the speech, the event also showcased local native artwork, specifically the art of quillwork. Jancita Warrington, a cultural consultant at the event, stood near the demonstration and spoke to guests about the work of artist Dana Warrington.
“Quillwork is a very, very old art of tribal people, but it is also one of those rare arts that is dying off, and so many are trying to help revive the art, which means not only learning the art itself, but also sharing the art,” Jancita said.
Jancita said she hopes this week’s events allow native students and community members to share and showcase what it means to be a Native American today.
“I'm really excited about the educational components that are going on,” Jancita said. “I truly believe that if we give a speech, or give an amazing PowerPoint, or do these different events, the level to which we educate is that of which will have a lasting impact on the community.”
Davids ended her speech on a prideful note, speaking on her love and passion for the role she is in.
“I cannot imagine doing anything other than this with my life right now,” Davids said. “There is nothing else I can possibly imagine devoting this much time and energy, and my heart, to because this feels like something that is so much bigger than me as an individual, than even the 3rd District of Kansas [or] the state of Kansas. This is our entire country.”
“It’s a good day to be indigenous,” Davids said.