Today is Indigenous Peoples Day, now recognized in many U.S. cities and states in place of Columbus Day, thanks to the efforts of many Indigenous people since at least the mid-1970s. The movement aims to end the celebration of the explorer whose efforts led to the colonization of the Americas, resulting in the enslavement and death of millions. Today more than 60 cities and four states in the U.S. recognize and celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, with more on the way as Indigenous people continue to advocate to change the day.
The movement is now growing beyond the United States. The United Nations has declared August 9 as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres committing “to fully realizing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the rights to self-determination and to traditional lands, territories and resources.”
Within the roller derby community there is also a growing recognition and elevation of Indigenous skaters through the creation of Team Indigenous and Team Indigenous Dreaming in Australia. With feedback from this community, the WFTDA has committed to developing more inclusive policies, improving language to be supportive of all members, and increasing advocacy within the organization for marginalized populations.
Today, we want to recognize a few members of Team Indigenous and Team Indigenous Dreaming, and the work they are doing in the derby community.
Canberra Roller Derby League and Team Indigenous Dreaming
“Skating with CRDL has taught me self love, which is something I’ll always be grateful for.”
My journey with roller derby started about a year ago when I put on skates for the first time with Canberra Roller Derby League (CRDL). Although I’ve been playing with them for less than half a year, I’ve been welcomed into a supportive and loving environment. Skating with CRDL has taught me self love, which is something I’ll always be grateful for. They’re also taking steps to increase diversity, and as such, I am now a co-chair of our Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
I grew up in a regional town where it was hard for me to openly identify as being Aboriginal. When I moved to Canberra last year, I found the freedom to explore my Aboriginality. I am aware of the privileges I have for having light skin. It has enabled me to avoid a lot of the racism that is still alive and well in Australia. However, my skin colour is a constant reminder of colonialism and the trauma of the past, which can still be seen today.
Being Aboriginal is more than the colour of our skin, it’s our connection to country, our beliefs, culture, the relationships we forge, our contributions to our community, and so much more. I am honoured to be representing my mob in Team Indigenous Dreaming. This team has strived for inclusivity and accessibility, which means that I’ve been given the opportunity to meet other Indigenous athletes in a predominantly white sport even though I am very new. Team Indigenous Dreaming is full of such strong, driven people who never fail to inspire me. I’m thankful for them for welcoming me into the team and encouraging me to grow as both a woman and a skater. The future is First Nations.
Diamond Dog, Lipan Apache
Naptown Roller Derby and Team Indigenous
“I love being involved with Team Indigenous and being able to combine my love of roller derby with my love of my culture.”
I’m Lipan Apache; my family is from southern Texas and northern Mexico. I’m a third generation member of the American Indian Movement which is very important to me. I’m also an historian who studies Spanish contact in the Southwest and Mexico, and I’m actively involved in the Two Spirited community. I skate for Naptown Roller Derby and I love being involved with Team Indigenous and being able to combine my love of roller derby with my love of my culture.
Charee Peters “SiouxperNova,” Yankton Sioux
Madison Roller Derby and Team Indigenous
“Making changes within our leagues to build and maintain a positive climate is only one step, though; we need to bring our work to the people…”
As my name implies, my heritage (Yankton Sioux) and career (astronomer) are very important to me. I currently skate with the Dairyland Dolls of Madison Roller Derby and Team Indigenous, while also coaching Wisconsin Men’s Roller Derby. Although my life is busy with derby and finishing my PhD, I strive to help as many communities as I can.
My work with the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy for the American Astronomical Society has taught me a lot about addressing disparities of equity. It’s imperative that we understand how implicit bias, institutionalized racism, ableism, and numerous other biases and issues disrupt the climate of our teams, sport, and community. To address this, I currently serve as Madison Roller Derby’s Community Outreach Manager and am a part of our Diversity and Equity Committee. In the past, I have helped write codes of conduct for not only derby leagues, but also for my own astronomy department.
Making changes within our leagues to build and maintain a positive climate is only one step, though; we need to bring our work to the people, especially those that aren’t often represented in our community. In the last year, I secured funding from the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium with other derby physicists to create “The Physics of Roller Derby,” which educates skaters on how to use physics to enhance their skating skills. The class has also been adapted to bring roller derby and science to the general public.
Daryl Concha (D.A.R.Y.L), Taos Pueblo
Gotham Girls Roller Derby and Team Indigenous
“Even though we have experienced denial of basic human rights, exploitation of culture, and discrimination since pre-Colonial time. We are still here.”
I currently skate for the Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars and am captain of the Brooklyn Bombshells, a Gotham home team. My family is from Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. My indigenous name is Paupsemeh, which means Blue Lake Smiling Flower. My family is well known for being dancers and singers. I continue this tradition through jingle dress dancing. Expression of this dance style connects me to the land and to my people. To be a jingle dress dancer is to carry prayers to the creator.
On Indigenous People’s Day I am proud to represent of one of the 573 tribes in the United States. Even though we have experienced denial of basic human rights, exploitation of culture, and discrimination since pre-Colonial time. We are still here.
Tah’ah (thank you) to WFTDA and to the roller derby community for giving space to Indigenous players.
Jumpy McGee is a skater and Board of Directors member with Maine Roller Derby, and a member of the WFTDA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.