SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A holiday might provide a day off from work or a distinction on the calendar, but it also provides a chance to think about something differently. Monday on Native Americans’ Day in South Dakota, people gathered at a Sioux Falls church to “eat and learn” as a group, as Augustana University campus pastor Ann Rosendale phrased it. Teacher and PhD student Kelly Sherman-Conroy of the Oglala Sioux Tribe spoke at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church next to the university in Sioux Falls.
After they had a chance to grab some buffalo soup and fry bread, attendees heard from speakers. One was Sherman-Conroy, a doctoral candidate at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.
“I try to honor my Indigenous ancestors by inspiring people to make a difference,” Sherman-Conroy said.
“For us, especially those of us who are non-Native, to learn more about Indigenous peoples and the gifts that they bring to all cultures, that’s something that’s really valuable to us,” Rosendale said.
“I have trained over 500 people, of clergy and laypeople, students, seminarians on how to be in spaces with each other,” Kelly Sherman-Conroy said. “Just because I am a Native person, an ethnic person, doesn’t necessarily mean I always understand how to be in spaces with everybody as well.”
Sherman-Conroy is 42 years old and now a mother herself.
“When I was little, nobody asked me to share my story at school,” Sherman-Conroy said. “There was no celebration for being Native. I grew up in, after we moved off the reservation, I grew up in Spearfish, South Dakota, and there weren’t a lot of Native children. Not only was I bullied by the kids and the young people, I was bullied by adults, and I was a child.”
Augustana University as well as Our Savior’s Lutheran Church organized the event on a day that highlights people often overlooked.
“Indigenous Peoples Day is important because it’s for people like us who don’t get the opportunity to share our stories or to be heard or to be celebrated,” Sherman-Conroy said. “We are resilient people.”
Native Americans’ Day became a state holiday in South Dakota in 1990.