Brother-and-sister act Clayson and Jeneda Benally of Navajo rock band Sihasin, will play a free family-friendly concert at The Liberty Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of Brent Stirton)

Indigenous Peoples Day, an annual holiday that commemorates Native Americans and their contributions, history and culture, began in South Dakota in 1989. Today it is celebrated annually in dozens of places, but for the first decade of its existence, it was an official holiday and day of remembrance in Berkeley and Santa Cruz, California — and in San Miguel County.

Pawnee legal scholar Walter Echo-Hawk has said, “Until the U.S. makes reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of this continent for the genocide that accompanied the nation’s founding, America will never be at peace.”

The Telluride Institute cites Echo-Hawk on its website. “In our own limited way,” the nonprofit points out, it has partnered with the county and its preeminent cultural institutions — the library, the art school, the historical museum and more — to “work towards just such a reconciliation.” Indigenous Peoples Day will be celebrated through the arts in two places over the next few days. On Monday — Indigenous Peoples Day proper — the Wilkinson Public Library will host a pair of events with Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist, member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and author of “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and The Teaching of Plants.” Kimmerer will host a writing workshop Monday afternoon from 1:30-3:30 p.m. and a book talk in the library’s program room, beginning at 6 p.m.

The library has given out more than 200 free copies of “Braiding Sweetgrass” in advance of this event, and the expectation is that the small program room will be full.

“We haven’t moved it to the Palm Theatre or anything,” events coordinator Elissa Dickson said, “and there’s been a fair bit of buzz about this reading. If you want a good seat, get there early.”

Though there are no more physical copies for distribution, “’Braiding Sweetgrass’ is available for free online as both an e-book or an audiobook,” Dickson pointed out, and copies will be for sale following the author’s talk. “A lot of people who’ve read it have told me they want to give it to everybody they know. It’s so full of valuable life lessons,” Dickson said.

What is more, Kimmerer’s free writing workshop (advance sign-up for which is required) “still has plenty of spaces available,” Dickson said. “You definitely don’t have to have read any of her work to get something out of either her workshop, or her talk. These are standalone, amazing events.” Author Elizabeth Gilbert has written that “Braiding Sweetgrass” takes readers “on a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise.”


The Navajo rock band Sihasin — which is to say, brother-and-sister act Clayson and Jeneda Benally from the Navajo Nation — will play its second show in Telluride Saturday night at The Liberty. It’s a busy time for Sihasin, which arrives in the box canyon with five Native American Music Award nominations. (The 19th annual awards ceremony is Nov. 2, and public voting is encouraged. Learn more at, and preview Sihasin’s music at

The performance Saturday, with Jenda on bass and Clayson on drums (and both on vocals) is both free of charge and family-friendly.

“We’re really excited to be back in Telluride,” Jeneda said, not only because they are performing in the box canyon in celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, as they did last year, but because Telluride is the last step on a journey to the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C., where the band will play Monday night. As she put it, “It feels like we’re building unity. We’re here, and a couple of days later, we’re in Washington,” which has officially pronounced the second Monday in October Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time this year.

“I feel like we’re bringing some of the spirit and unity and community of Telluride to another place,” she said. “It’s a beautiful strand in the necklace that we get to wear.”

The concert is free, and for all ages, because “No one should ever feel unwelcome. Everyone should feel equal and empowered,” Clayson added. “This is an event that celebrates everyone. It’s not just for ‘Indigenous’ people. It’s for all of us to come together.” The word “indigenous,” he pointed out, “applies to all the people of the Earth.”

The concert Saturday is at 7 p.m.