Community leaders from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, gathered at the Sioux Falls Labor Temple to discuss the Native American Day Parade and the impact it will have on the community. President Kooper Caraway of the SFLT opened the doors and welcomed the Parade to Sioux Falls. Photo by Richie Richards / Native Sun News Today

Planning underway for city's first Native American Day parade

Sioux Falls celebrates Native American Day with a first ever parade
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

SIOUX FALLS – The City of Sioux Falls will come together to celebrate the rich and vibrant cultures of its surrounding tribal nations in a first-ever parade to honor Native American Day.

On July 26, 2018, organizers of the Native American Day Parade in Sioux Falls received word from Cathy Buchheim, Recreation Program Coordinator for the City of Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation, that the City approved the application to have a parade in the downtown area.

This will be an addition to the many great cultural events which happen in South Dakota’s largest city throughout the year.

The Native American Day Parade will be held on the traditional route used by other parades in the city beginning at 14th St. and S. Phillips Ave. near Lyons Park and head north into the heart of the downtown area.

Although the Native American Day Parade in Sioux Falls was only recently applied for and approved by the City, the roots of the state holiday which is the inspiration for this historical gathering go back nearly 28 years when Governor George S. Michelson adopted October 12, 1990 as a state holiday called Native American Day. This was a result of a challenge by longtime Native American business owner, Tim Giago (former owner of Indian Country Today and current owner of Native Sun News Today in Rapid City).

South Dakota became the first state in the country to adopt such a holiday to honor the indigenous nations within its borders and to denounce the celebration of Columbus Day. This major step in the state’s history did not happen overnight and did not happen without a fight.

After a meeting with Giago in 1989 Governor Michelson declared 1990 as the “Year of Reconciliation” to highlight the struggles within the state between Native and non-Natives and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This Year of Reconciliation was intended to be a state-wide effort to make right the wrongs and promote a healing period for the state.

Tim and Jackie Giago participate in the 2015 Native American Day Parade in downtown Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

In a column written in 2014 and published in Native Sun News Today, Tim Giago states, “The Native American Day holiday did not occur by happenstance. It certainly was not anything advocated by the state’s largest newspapers, television or radio stations, or by the state’s 100 weekly newspapers. It was instead a holiday advocated by the only independent, Indian-owned weekly newspaper in the state, the original Lakota Times.”

This holiday came to be as a result of the grassroots efforts of a grassroots company owned and operated by an Oglala Lakota tribal member. The determination of Giago, his staff and his supporters was persistent on changing the name of Columbus Day; which ironically, many of the businesses in South Dakota continue to celebrate the second Monday in October each year as such.

Part of that Year of Reconciliation was the recognition of the true history of the tyranny and viciousness of the four Columbus voyages to the islands off of the southeastern coast of the continental United States and the devastation colonization has had on the hundreds of indigenous nations and millions of tribal citizens living in the occupied lands. The Wounded Knee Massacre is just one story in the tale of South Dakota and Governor Michelson wanted to address that part of the state’s history which had been forgotten by many in the non-Native world; the massacre left nearly 300 men, women and children dead on the frozen field on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

For Native Americans in South Dakota, Columbus Day was not a day of celebration.

According to Giago, the Year of Reconciliation was a year in which he and his colleagues had fought for but they felt it was necessary to first honor the nearly 300 individuals who were killed and next was to recognize those tribal nations who are alive today.

The Year of Reconciliation was a challenge accepted by Governor Michelson but Giago pushed for the changing of Columbus Day to Native American Day. The South Dakota Legislature, through some influence, passed the law which renamed the holiday in 1990. South Dakota became the first state in the nation to have such a holiday and since then, several other states of have honored their indigenous nations by declaring Indigenous People’s Day, American Indian Day and Discoverer’s Day in Hawaii. Several cities across the country have declared an end to Columbus Day and have accepted some form of holiday recognizing indigenous cultures instead.

Sioux Falls has been a visited and populated area for many thousands of years as the cascading falls of the Big Sioux River has been a sacred to area to surrounding tribal groups. Sioux Falls has been an area populated by Native Americans for many years and that population continues to persist. According to the 2010 census, 2.5 percent of the population in Sioux Falls is Native American.

This is only part of the history of Native Americans and Native American Day in Sioux Falls and South Dakota. Many tribal members travel back and forth from Sioux Falls from surrounding reservations for much of their needs. They also spend long periods of time looking for jobs, opportunity, education, business and other interests which keeps them invested in the largest city in South Dakota. Native American culture is found throughout the city in various ways. It makes sense for Sioux Falls to recognize the contribution tribal members make to their society.

In June of 2018, organizers of the Native American Day Parade applied for and was eventually granted approval from the City to host the Parade. This was done through positive conversations and in depth communications of the importance of this holiday parade in the downtown area. Organizers wish to thank the City of Sioux of Sioux Falls and the Sioux Falls Police Department (Sgt. Troy Bruxvoort) for their support throughout the application process.

On Saturday, August 11, a Planning Committee Meeting was held at the Sioux Falls Labor Temple near the east side of Sioux Falls. Several community members came together to discuss the history of Sioux Falls and the need for such an event. The member in attendance were excited about the parade and wanted to help in any way possible to make it happen.

This Planning Committee expressed the importance of having a strong youth presence and respecting traditional protocols and values within the tribal codes of respect. The Committee has begun to invite youth and parent groups to participate, as well as honoring the veterans of foreign wars who are Native American and have served to protect the freedoms which makes these parades possible.

The theme of the Native American Day Parade in Sioux Falls is “Honoring Our Elders” and Tim Giago of Native Sun News Today has been chosen as the Grand Marshall for the parade for his hard work and leadership as a business owner and person who has advocated for improved race relations between Natives and non-Natives over the last four decades of his career.


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