Indigenous protest at AMNH

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“Making Voices Heard,” the third annual Indigenous Peoples Day Tour, held at museum


  • Banners at the American Museum of Natural History. Photo: Teddy Son

The third annual Indigenous Peoples Day Tour and Protest was held at the American Museum of Natural History on Monday, October 8th.

Returning to the museum for the third year in a row, the tour was mainly centered around museum exhibits that organizers deemed disrespectful and/or historically inaccurate in representing the faces of the various native cultures the museum has to offer.

This year’s tour, however, differed from previous ones in a significant way. The prior two tours had been led by representatives and organizers of the event, but this year’s event was more self-guided. Participants could walk around the museum, stopping at different exhibits labeled in their event brochures. A few organizers were still present at every turn, but participants were able to move between groups and exhibits more freely, rather than stick to a fixed route.

The museum does not object to the tour, which draws a large crowd. According to the organizers, almost 1000 people participated on Monday.

The event kicked off around 3:30 p.m., in the museum’s Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall. Organizers began reciting the protest’s main goals, criticizing Roosevelt’s values that they contend “advanced white supremacy.”

“He [Roosevelt] viewed land and people as objects to obtain,” protesters said.

Banners unfurled and chants rang out in the museum halls. The Hall of African Peoples, for example, was filled with people singing songs that prayed to indigenous ancestors. The group spread out into the nearby Birds of the World Hall, carrying banners reading “END WHITE SUPREMACY” and “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” among others.

The word “genocide” was also used as a metaphor for the oppression of indigenous peoples around the world.

“All your genocides are connected,” chanted the participants, “follow the genocide trail.”

In the Hall of Central American Peoples, participants were invited to join in on a traditional ceremonial act, honoring “the four elements of Mother Earth,” dancing and calling for an end to genocide around the globe: “We resist, we exist, we reclaim.”

The event culminated with a “People’s Assembly” under the Great Canoe on the lower level of the museum. Every banner in the museum was on show, held up by participants or strewn on the floor. The participants mainly sat in a circle under the suspended canoe display, while speakers from the organizing committees stepped into the middle. Performances such as slam poetry, chanting, singing, or just speaking received applause and cheers from the audience.

Participating organizations included the American Indian Community House, Black Youth Project 100, South Asia Solidarity Initiative, Chinatown Art Brigade, Take Back the Bronx, The People’s Cultural Plan and Working Artists and the Greater Economy.

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