Shared, Used, and Taken presented by The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate A speaker series in partnership with Indiana Humanities about the land we live on. This speaker series is aimed at amplifying stories of land, parks, greenways, trails, and urban farms. Part 1 of this 3-part series was focused on the topic of Native Land. This is Peter Bloomquist’s reflection.

The state name of Indiana (meaning Land of the Indians) is a travesty. According to the Frequently Asked questions page on “The State of Indiana does not recognize any organization, band, etc. as a “State Recognized Tribe” (

Prior to attending the first installment of Shared, Used and Taken with guest speaker Autumn Brunelle; my wife Kate and I were aware that our home state does not officially recognize a single Native American tribe and that the Indian Removal Act of 1830 forcibly removed Natives from their lands within our state borders. Otherwise, we found ourselves uneducated on narratives surrounding Native peoples.

We are enthusiastic nature lovers/parks people and were keen to listen to and learn from Autumn Brunelle (a naturalist with Monroe County Parks and Recreation and proud Anishinaabe citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa). It was shocking to become acutely aware of the broad generalizations Native people are categorized as by society. Indigenous people are not all ‘one-with-nature’ nor are they all alcoholics. Of course not – they are each individual human beings with particular strengths and weaknesses. Do some indigenous tribes struggle with high rates of substance abuse? Yes, but when one takes an honest look at the history of injustice, exploitation and general wrongdoing by the United States and Canadian governments towards Native people – empathy comes to the forefront of our emotions. One of the most egregious of these governmental crimes against Natives was the so called “Boarding Schools.” These institutions continued late into the 20th century, where native children were sometimes forcibly separated from their families for assimilation purposes. Sexual, physical and mental abuse of children was rampant at some of these schools. In recent years, mass graves have been discovered at the sites of these schools. Children disappeared and there are still hundreds of deceased indigenous children yet to be found.

Language matters. Too often are generalized groups of indigenous people categorized as “hunters and gatherers.” In historical/informational signage and textbooks it is typical to see Caucasian groups specified and individuals named, where Natives are generalized, and individuals remain nameless. Some Native customs have found their way into our everyday vernacular. For instance, I found that I have regularly use the term “pow wow” to describe a group of friends getting together to discuss a topic or just enjoy each other’s company. My own actions have been a bit degrading to indigenous culture as a real Pow Wow is a sacred gathering. Twice I’ve caught myself before using this term casually in the weeks following Autumn’s talk. It is not hard to do and doesn’t have any significant effect on me – so I am making a concerted effort to modify my language.

I am so thankful for the Parks Alliance for hosting and for The Indianapolis Foundation for presenting such a thought-provoking and wonderful event. Kate and I are looking forward to attending the next installment of Shared, Used & Taken on Environmental Racism on Tuesday, June 14th.