Indigenous Peoples Day: appreciation of contributions, historic places


It’s not only important to remember the contributions Native Americans have made to the United States on Indigenous Peoples Day, but also every day after, according to Danielle Hiraldo, director of the American Indian Center of Carolina.

“For a long time, the American narrative has often erased Indigenous peoples and our contributions to this country. Having a day that honors this resilience is an important step in combating this erasure. As we celebrate this day, it is important to recognize the diversity of cultures and the vibrancy that exist within our Indigenous communities,” said Hiraldo.

To help you celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, consider visiting two historic sites near Chapel Hill. These are the replica site of Occaneechi Village in Hillsborough and the Town Creek Indian Mound in Mt. Gilead.

“In North Carolina, our history and continued presence can be found in the many places and spaces that have shaped who we are as peoples,” said Hiraldo, a citizen of North Carolina’s Lumbee Tribe.

Whether or not you choose to visit the sites, Hiraldo asks you to pay attention to what makes these places sacred. “When I think of sacred ground, I remember Vine Deloria Jr.’s four categories of sacred ground: something very important happened; sacred by the actions of men; places of overwhelming holiness; and new revelations in new places,” said Hiraldo, referring to the Native American author, theologian, historian and political activist. “When we visit such places, we must respect the land, the people and the sanctity that connects the two.”

Representation by artist Orna Weinroth based on the Fredricks archaeological site of a historic Occaneechi village visited in 1701 by traveler John Lawson. The replica of the nearby village of Hillsborough, North Carolina is also based on the Fredricks site.

Occaneechi Village Replica Site

This reconstructed 17th century village on the banks of the Eno River is about half a mile from where the Occaneechi tribe had a village 300 years ago. The Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation website includes a video of the village, based on the site’s archaeological map.

Town Creek Indian Mound

The Town Creek Indian Mound offers a glimpse into pre-Columbian life in the Piedmont region of the state. The site was a political and cultural center located on a low bluff where Town Creek and Little River meet. The area around the mound of earth is characteristic of 11th century Aboriginal culture in the Pee Dee River Valley and has been excavated since 1937.


Hiraldo said she looks forward to the Carolina community continuing to celebrate Indigenous people beyond Oct. 10 and Native American Heritage Month in November. “Let’s elevate how Indigenous peoples contribute to the larger narrative of the United States that often ignores us.

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Patrick F. Williams