Indigenous Peoples Day flag ceremony held, but flag is not available to raise

Indigenous People’s Day flag ceremony in Philadelphia on October 7, 2021. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Indigenous People’s Day flag ceremony in Philadelphia on October 7, 2021. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia city officials held a flag-raising ceremony to recognize the 13th anniversary of Indigenous Peoples Day, but the flag wasn’t ready to be raised.

There were banners that looked like the flag available for pictures at the event, but the flag itself didn’t make it to City Hall for the more-than-hour-long ceremony, which featured a drum circle, native singing and dancing, and many speeches.

Tammy Walkingstick spoke, saying that some people don’t believe Native Americans still exist.

Tammy Walkingstick speaking at the flag raising. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

She said, “It feels weird to me, because they feel we are extinct like an animal is extinct. … Some of our tribes are extinct, but we are still here.”

State Senator Sharif Street represented the Nanticoke Tribe. Street said he didn’t know his heritage until he was encouraged to review his family roots. “I’ve discovered that I am part of the Nanticoke Tribe,” said Street.

Drum circle at the flag raising ceremony. (Tom MacDonald / WHYY)

“For so many of us who identify as African American, we know there is a significant part of our cultural heritage that is Indigenous. We know that through oral history, it has always been told from our families, but being able to reconnect with that portion of our heritage helps us to be connected.”

Three Winds, who described herself as a tribal citizen of the Lenape Tribe of Delaware, told those in attendance, “Our people, the Lenape people, have been always known as the grandfathers, the peacekeepers, the bridge-builders. We have always been the ones to bring communities together.”

Three Winds, who described herself as a tribal citizen of the Lenape Tribe of Delaware, speaking at the Indigenous Peoples’Day flag-raising ceremony in Philadelphia. (Tom MacDonald / WHYY)

Vanessa Lowery Brown added that Indigenous people, “Want to send out a beacon, that no one needs to be in hiding anymore about their heritage. We are formed and are here to welcome you to reconnect and help you reconnect with your past.”

Felicia Teeter of the Yakama Nation gave a speech at the event reminding people of their heritage and not to forget the harm caused by colonization.

“This flag and this day does not undo more than 500 years of colonization. It does not bring our families back. It does not bring our land back. It does not bring our relatives back. It does not make our water drinkable, our soil fertile. It does not erase mass rape and murder, attempted genocide.”

The ceremony ended with a drum circle and circle dance to celebrate the day. There are more activities to come over the weekend in the city: a march on Sunday from City Hall to the Delaware River and a festival at Bartram’s Garden, which was originally Lenape land. The latter is free and open to the public, with dancers, drummers, speakers, and activities for children.

On Monday, many buildings in the city will be lit in purple for Indigenous Peoples Day, including Boat House Row, the PECO Building, and Philadelphia International Airport.

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