We all belong on this earth. We all originated and came from a specific land in the many regions our globe has to offer. Some of us are ethnically from many places. Some of us are not from the place we are ethnically from. Some of us are from and live in the lands we and our ancestors are indigenous to.

There are various ethnic groups that live in one region and have for many years. But what does being indigenous to specific lands mean? One prominent answer to this is that your ancestors first originated from that region, that they have lived there since history from that area became known, that they are the natives, the people of that land.

Why is this land so important for people originally from it? Because of their history, culture and ancestors that emerged there. The history and energy of their ancestors’ — the dances, languages and songs — still blow through the mountains and swirl in the oceans. That when the natives of that land step foot into it, their feet connect with the soil their ancestors once used to step foot in.

Why is it so important yet so hard to preserve this significant culture and land? It’s important because being in this land defines the identity for many and puts them in a position where they may connect to their roots more. It’s hard to preserve due to the colonizer’s customs. From changing the names of the regions to claiming the culture and Westernizing it. Decolonization would be one way of preserving, and this could be done through wearing cultural clothes to work and calling the regions by their right and original names.

Connecting to a Native land for me would be with the Uyghurs. East Turkestan is their homeland, the region where their culture, food and language is. The Chinese Communist Party has renamed their land to “Xinjiang,” which means “new territory” in Chinese. The Uyghurs are being indoctrinated to align with Chinese ideals and brainwashed by propaganda.

This is heartbreaking to see from thousands of miles away, as I see the Uyghurs as my ancestors. To see their culture and land being relabeled and colonized is a devastating situation for me and millions of Uyghurs. They are native to East Turkestan, just how Native Americans are indeginous to the lands we are living in now. Seattle, Tacoma, Alki Beach, and many more Washington State cities are all on Native land. As the many tribes here are preserving their culture, I feel a sense of connection with them through my ancestors’ Uyghur culture, and how I also want to protect their culture from the Chinese Communist Party.

There are many ways of preserving these beautiful cultures despite being miles away from native lands. One would be through educating others on the ethnic group, its culture and customs, the land they are from and the correct way of pronouncing it. The next would be to wear more cultural clothing, whether it be at work, meetings, coffee meetups or school. Another would be to bring awareness to your campus, whether it’s opening a booth at a cultural festival or encouraging more cultural events to take place.

Culture is important for many, as it makes up part of our identity. Educating others on the land you’re native from and calling it by its correct name is a significant step towards decolonization and respecting our ancestors and their way of life.

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