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Plattsburgh marks first official Indigenous Peoples Day

Plattsburgh, New York officials marked Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday by unveiling a new sign near the base of the Champlain monument. It is one of a series of efforts to honor the Iroquois history and culture of the region.

During the Plattsburgh Common Council meeting Thursday, Mayor Chris Rosenquest read into the record a proclamation declaring the second Monday of October Indigenous Peoples Day in the city.

“Whereas prior to colonization indigenous people lived and flourished in the Americas for tens of thousands of years; and whereas the European colonization of North America led to the suppression, forced assimilation and genocide of Indigenous peoples and their cultures; and whereas the city of Plattsburgh recognizes and values the vast contributions made to the United States by Indigenous people’s knowledge, science, philosophy, art and culture; now therefore I, Christopher Rosenquest, Mayor of the city of Plattsburgh do hereby proclaim that the second Monday in October be designated as Indigenous People’s day and that the city of Plattsburgh is forever recognized by its native name: Tsi ietsenhtha and honors and recognizes the unique contributions indigenous peoples have made.”

To mark the city’s first official Indigenous Peoples’ Day Mayor Rosenquest, a Democrat was at the Champlain monument to dedicate a new plaque honoring Mohawk history and culture. He began the ceremony with the traditional statement of respect.

“We acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Mohawk people, the Keepers of the Eastern Door. We honor the original caretakers of this and surrounding lands and offer respect to the Haudenosaunee who are still here. We are settlers on their land and we strive to be accountable for remembering this history and cultivating respect in relationships with our indigenous neighbors and their land.”

The mayor then turned to Mohawks Valerie Stacey-Patrie and Emilio Stacey-Mora to unveil the plaque.

Stacey-Moro explained the significance of what he was wearing for the ceremony.

“I’m wearing the traditional headdress and the colors that I’m currently wearing is to represent all of the survivors and all that have not made it through the traditional schooling as well that they had went through. And we just want to remember those people. My grandfather is one of those people that is one of our survivors and we just want to make sure to always keep in our memory that this is something that we do not want to repeat in any kind of way.”

Mohawk Emily Kasennisaks Cecilia Stacey says the new sign helps non-natives understand Mohawk history and culture. She adds that ceremonies like this help her feel that native culture is finally being accepted on some level.

“My family has been here since before colonization. And yet for some reason people don’t know that. They don’t understand that. I used to volunteer over at Momot Elementary School and I had a little boy who raised his hand and he was about 3 or 4 years old and he said my mommy told me that Native Americans are extinct. They don’t exist anymore.”

Retired District Attorney and Judge Penny Clute works with the Tsi ietsenhtha/Gee Yeh Jon' Ta Plattsburgh Art Project to spread awareness of Mohawk history and place native artworks across the city.

"This is really important having Indigenous Peoples’ Day declared, recognizing there are more parts of our history. We’re not changing anything. We’re not trying to detract from anything. We’re adding to it.”

The plaque outlines plants and medicines and efforts to revitalize traditional native medical practices. There are more sculptures and signs in the city including a turtle sculpture with symbols related to the origin story that will be dedicated next spring.