Native Americans celebrated their heritage on Indigenous Peoples’ Day with an emotional ceremony on Randall’s Island Monday.
Solemn song and drumbeats blended with the gentle sound of the Harlem River licking at the bank of Randall’s Island on Oct. 9. Here, indigenous people traveled from across the country to perform a ceremony in which natives poured water from their land into the river. Lamenting colonialism and the resulting loss of life, participants wept while chanting and performing traditional dances.
“Whenever we gather, we honor earth, water. The water ceremony is a way that we bring the waters from different places and people in prayer,” said Cliff Matias, the founder of the RedHawk Native American Arts Council’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration. “Don’t forget this is also a polluted waterway and so we bring blessings, and always remember that water is life.”