Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Melissa Begg
October 09, 2023

Dear CSSW Community,

Today, October 9th, marks the annual celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This is an opportunity to honor the invaluable contributions and acknowledge the history and cultures of Indigenous communities that have resided in the Americas for thousands of years. This month, two years following President Biden’s initial proclamation, the House and the Senate reintroduced a bill that would establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a federal holiday.

We must commit to understanding the widespread history of indigenous people and communities not only today, but always. For centuries, folks have been displaced and discriminated against, having their sovereignty, ability to worship, cultural traditions, and so much more stripped from them. Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by many of our societal challenges in the U.S. – whether that be through gender-based violence, climate change and the drilling/fracking of sacred grounds, or access to proper physical and mental health care services. These disparities are a result of years of policies and practices intended to keep Indigenous communities silenced and pushed to the margins. It is only with increased visibility, an influx of resources, and indigenous-centered partnerships and approaches that we can begin to amend the years of systemic inequities and abuse that still linger in so many of these spaces.

This Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we would like to highlight the work of Ariel Richer, co-founder and co-director at Urban Indigenous Collective (UIC) in Manhattan. Ariel earned both a Master’s Degree and her PhD from CSSW, and has been a licensed master social worker for eight years. Her research focuses on intimate partner violence and increasing access to relevant services for Black and Indigenous women who experience structural stigma related to drug use, involvement in the criminal-legal system, sexuality, and racism. At UIC, she has created a community center that aims to provide a safe and inclusive space for “Urban Natives to heal, learn, and connect.” You can learn more about Ariel’s work as well as UIC’s mission and resources here.

Grassroots organizations and movements like UIC make room for the expansion of indigenous inclusivity and collective healing. Social workers know what it means to advocate for and center the narratives of others — let us use this time to listen to Indigenous voices and understand the role we play in working towards true equity and prosperity for everyone.

In community,

Melissa Begg
Dean & Professor

Karma Lowe
Senior Associate Dean for DEI, Enrollment & Community Engagement