SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — After two years of absence, the Native American Day parade is returning to the streets of Sioux Falls this October.

Due to COVID-19, the parade was put on hold in 2020 and 2021 but now, organizers Char Green-Maximo and Shaina Yellowback are excited to bring the festivities back to downtown Sioux Falls. They think this year’s event will be the biggest one yet.

“Gosh, it’s so exciting. I can’t even put it into words. And as we get closer, the excitement just kind of builds,” Green-Maximo said.

For those that don’t live on the reservation or in cities with large Native populations, Green-Maximo said that the Native American Day parade is special to those on the east side of the state who are more spread out and don’t have as much access to Native culture, businesses, and community.

“In Sioux Falls, our Native population is growing and so, we start seeing more businesses, more people running for different things, being representatives, or running for different, you know, election things,” Green-Maximo said. “But we’re still very much in the beginning phases, I feel like and in that exposure level, and so the parade, I feel like really is an opportunity for us to all come together and see that.”

But the parade and event are not just for Native people, the organizers said. It’s for everybody.

“So, that’s one thing that that I love about the fact about having the parade here in Sioux Falls is because a lot of non-Native people– they want to see our culture and they want to see the dances and the drums and everything,” Yellowback said.

Green-Maximo said that this year’s parade will feature jingle dancers, the Dakota 38 riders, Indigenous warrior women, and drums.

“And so, the drums are really the heartbeat of our people. And so, it’s always so beautiful to hear those songs and, and the language, and then the drum itself,” Green-Maximo said.

This year’s parade will center around two themes: wellness and teaching. Floats from each Sioux Falls high school’s tribal club will be featured in the parade with Jefferson High School participating for the first time since the parade began in 2018.

“So really excited about that just, like, just for our youth to be able to express themselves,” Green-Maximo said. “So, a lot of the floats will be that and this year, the theme is walking with our teachers. And so, for us, that means not just our education teachers that we see, you know, K through 12, but also our teachers on life. Our mentors, cultural keepers, our people who hold our, our ways of life and teach others.”

To further emphasize the teaching theme, Barb Jens of Sisseton will be honored as this year’s Grand Marshal.

“She actually comes to Sioux Falls and she helps with sewing and beading and everything under that belt, I should say. So, she was definitely the top choice for us because she teaches without shame. And she’s just a really good woman and helps everybody,” Yellowback said.

The wellness theme will be honored with a fun run before the parade as well as the parade’s partnership with South Dakota Urban Indian Health.

“There’s not too many native led organizations and so we definitely wanted them to be a part. A lot of what they do with their integrated care and holistic approach is a lot how we do I kind of view the parade as well,” Green-Maximo said.

But the most important thread throughout this year’s activities is showing support and providing community for Native youth.

Because Sioux Falls students have the day off of school on Native American Day, organizers are excited for Native and non-Native kids to have the opportunity to attend the parade. For Native kids in particular, organizers hope this year’s events provide the youth with an opportunity to be exposed to their culture and relatives in a way that isn’t always possible East River.

“It’s really like a collective experience,” Green-Maximo said. “And I always describe it as, like, when we’re all together, it’s like this natural energy, that it’s kind of like a healing environment. I feel like being together and hearing the music and the songs and the language, and just our people in general.”

This year’s festivities begin at 9 a.m. on October 10 with a moment of prayer at Lyons Park downtown. The prayer will then be followed by a fun run and the parade will kick off at 11 a.m. After the parade, there will be 500 free meals starting at 12:30 available at Falls Park in the open-air shelter with Native vendors serving barbecue and Indian tacos.

If you’re interested in volunteering or having a float in the parade, you can sign up here.