KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — October 11 marks Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a day to celebrate and honor native people in America and commemorate their culture. The day of celebration has been around since 1992, but this is the first year a U.S. President has made a proclamation celebrating the day instead of focusing on Christopher Columbus Day.
East Tennessee has a rich history when it comes to Indigenous people and the East Tennessee Historical Society is making sure people understand that history. “Our mission is to promote and interpret the history of East Tennessee,” said, Dr. Warren Dockter, the CEO, and President at the East Tennessee Historical Society.
When you walk into the East Tennessee Historical Museum some of the first displays you will see are the Indigenous people and tribes that lived in our East Tennessee Hills. “We have a tremendous history here in East Tennessee that goes all the way back to the archaic period,” Dockter explained.
Now, these tribes and other Indigenous people are getting their own day of appreciation.
Dockter said, “It’s taken too long really and it’s a very complex issue, and obviously, this kind of arose as a counter-culture to Columbus Day.”
Indigenous Peoples’ Day doesn’t come without controversy just like the history itself. “East Tennessee became an area of imperial exploration and an area of colonial violence and so you can see repeatedly where these cultures sort of run into one another,” Dockter stated.
He adds that it’s important to remember the past so we can better our future relationships with today’s Indigenous People, “I don’t know if we can ever correct some of the things that have gone on, but what we can do is try to understand what happened and try to commemorate and honor the legacy of some people.”
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This is a culture that is very alive and well here in East Tennessee. Along with visiting the East Tennessee Historical Museum, there are also places like the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum over in Monroe County where you can learn more about the most prominent Indigenous people of East Tennessee, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.