‘We are still here:’ Wichita’s indigenous community fights for proper celebration

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — President Joe Biden signed a proclamation on Friday to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 11. Some in the indigenous community believe it is a day to remember an often forgotten group of people, but others ask if one day is enough.  

“There’s a great movement that is trying to make the former Columbus Day — Indigenous Day,” Dewitt Dombeo, a member of the Kiowa tribe, said. “I’m for it, but then again, I have questions about it.” 

Dewitt Dombeo is grateful for the effort to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day formally but asks about the other 364 days.

“African American, Asian American, Mexican Americans, Native American — whoever they are — I think there ought to be a recognition for them always, every day,” Dombeo said. 

Others feel their own history isn’t being adequately recognized now. 

“We are still here,” Philip Caldwell, a member of the Cheyenne tribe, said, “That we’re not extinct, that we will always be here and remain here because this was our home first before it was anyone else’s.” 

Part of that recognition is the Trail of Tears Memorial Walk. It commemorates the ancestors’ lives lost during the 1800s and helps indigenous tribes preserve their culture. During the early 1800s, indigenous people lived in southern states and grew their crops until the federal government forced them out to make room for white people to grow cotton.

Caldwell said participants may not have taken the same route, but just walking acknowledges their ancestors and the persecution they went through.

“We can never really expect the hardship they went through,” Caldwell said. “It just gives me some peace that here we are. We’re all coming together, and we’re all walking as one.” 

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