Speeches, food -- but not frybread -- and Thomas X to headline Grand Forks’ Indigenous Peoples Day

Groups organize to sponsor first celebration of city's new calendar event.

Courtney Davis Souvannasacd and her niece, Niska Kempenich, speak in support of a resolution that would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day at the Grand Forks City Council earlier this month. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Plans for Grand Forks’ first Indigenous Peoples Day celebration are coming together.

That means attendees can listen to speeches by American Indian faculty at the University of North Dakota and Jamie Azure, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians tribal chairman, see a performance by Thomas X, a rapper from Red Lake Nation in Minnesota, and sample indigenous foods, which organizer Courtney Davis Souvannasacd said won’t include frybread tacos, a staple of American Indian fundraisers.

“Frybread is a food based on being colonized, and so we’re taking a hard look at providing local and fresh ingredients that are representative of the area,” Davis Souvannasacd said. “We’re looking forward to opening up the community to showcase some contemporary, modern Native culture.”

Davis Souvannasacd is one of several people who urged Grand Forks City Council members this summer to approve a resolution that swapped the holiday in for a longstanding one that recognized Christopher Columbus, one of North America’s preeminent colonial figures.

A unanimous City Council vote in July replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. The resolution doing so recognizes the colonizer’s “violent and tragic mistreatment” of indigenous and urges other Grand Forks-area institutions, including Grand Forks Public Schools and UND, to follow the city’s lead. The university did so later this summer, and Davis Souvannasacd has met with school district officials about the same.


Indigenous Peoples Day has been instituted in cities across the United States, while others have minimized or stopped recognizing Columbus Day.

Grand Forks’ Indigenous Peoples Day celebration is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, at the Fire Hall Theatre, 412 2nd Ave. N., Grand Forks.

The money to pay for the celebration comes from the combined efforts of Grand Forks Public Schools and East Grand Forks Public Schools’ American Indian parent committees, plus private donations, Davis Souvannasacd said.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
What To Read Next
Get Local