This coming Monday, Oct. 11, Maine will once again be celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, and there is a lot to celebrate.

“Reservation Dogs,” a comedy series streaming on Hulu, boasts a huge fan base and a 98% “fresh” rating by Rotten Tomatoes. With an entirely Indigenous writer’s room and a nearly all Indigenous cast, they are also creating new space for Indigenous voices.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

Back in May, “11 Indigenous Australian Artists You Should Know About” was featured in the Australian edition of Vogue magazine, while over in neighboring New Zealand, pop artist Lorde has released a mini album, “Solar Power,” sung in the Maori language.

While there are certainly some conversations around appropriation, with Lorde herself welcoming that complicated discussion, her work is aligned with New Zealand’s cultural goals. According to Time, “The New Zealand government has pledged to ensure 1 million residents are able to speak basic Māori by 2040 – an effort to revive a language that UNESCO has classified as ‘vulnerable.’ The language has been incorporated into everyday life in ways both big and small. At sporting events, the national anthem is sung in both English and Māori language.”

In our own country, the Essenes Tribe has had 1,199 acres of redwood forest and prairie restored to them along with similar land transfers. Conservation efforts are underway in New York, Oregon and a few other states. Here in Maine, 735 acres within Piscataquis County have been returned to the Penobscot Nation.

Indigenous land practices are “increasingly seen by conservationists as synergistic with the global campaign to protect biodiversity and to manage nature in a way that hedges against climate change,” according to Yale Environment 360. The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental foundation, actively includes indigenous communities in their programmatic work.

So as you can see, there truly is much to celebrate. There is also a tremendous amount of work to be done.

On Sept. 30, Canada marked its first national Truth and Reconciliation Day. Among the many painful truths of Canada’s history, front and center is the horror of its residential schools.

“There were 140 federally-run Indian Residential Schools in Canada between 1831 and 1998,” reports NPR. “The government separated some 150,000 Indigenous children from their families and forced them to attend the Christian boarding schools in an effort to assimilate them into Canadian society. Thousands of children died of disease and other causes, and the Canadian government has acknowledged that physical and sexual abuse was rampant at these schools.”

Throughout this year, the bodies of those children have been uncovered. It is estimated there were at least 6,000 children hidden away in mass, unmarked graves on school grounds. While we look across the border in shock at this atrocity, the reality is, we supported this same system. Wabanaki children were wrenched from their families and sent to the infamous Carlisle School in Pennsylvania and others. We simply have not yet begun to dig.

As the bodies of these long-lost children are brought home to their communities for ceremony and proper burial, we are all called upon to sit with these heavy truths, come to grips with some unsettling history and engage with the work of genuine reconciliation.

Celebrating the beauty of Indigenous cultures comes with the obligation to honor the painful truths.

Comments are not available on this story.