Monday, Oct. 8 is nationally recognized as Columbus Day, but in recent years universities and cities have pushed to celebrate indigenous peoples as opposed to this historic explorer. Student groups, such as Native American Cultural Programs (NACP), recognize Indigenous People’s Week and will be hosting a number of events in the upcoming week to celebrate and illuminate indigenous people.
Last week on Oct. 3, the Office of the Provost sent an email to University of Connecticut students detailing the reasons for this recognition and the events that will take place for Indigenous People’s Week.
“Acknowledging the history of indigenous people is one-step on a journey towards ensuring a community of inclusive excellence here at the University of Connecticut,” the email said.
This year the focus of the week is on land acknowledgement. UConn is built on indigenous lands, according to Srishti Sadhir, the president of the Native American Cultural Society (NACS), and as the email from the provost pointed out, “Connecticut,” comes from “Quinnitukqut,” a Mohegan word that means, “long, tidal river.”
“Out of respect it is our responsibility to at least acknowledge the community of whose land we are existing on,” Brianna Miloz, NACP graduate assistant, said.
As opposed to celebrating Christopher Columbus, who many believe exploited native communities and kicked off a process of colonization that devastated indigenous people, this week at UConn focuses on recognizing those who preceded Columbus and whose accomplishments are often skated over.
“Columbus’s voyage to the New World may be considered one of great ‘discovery,’” Sadhir said, “but it marked the beginning of indigenous exploitation and genocide.”
While recognizing indigenous people this week is important in correcting the historical narrative, reforming the education system and recognizing this marginalized community throughout the year is important for long-term change, according to NACS members.
“Ideally, the education system as a whole needs to be changed,” NACS treasurer Brooke Parmalee said. “The history taught in the classrooms fails to give proper acknowledgement to natives and fails to portray Columbus as a destroyer of the Native peoples; the glorification of Columbus must end.”
NACP offer events throughout the year, including their book club, film screenings and guest speakers, according to Anna Kimberly, NACS secretary. Events are open to all students, not exclusively those who identify as part of an indigenous community.
This week, events will be hosted almost every day. On Monday, there will be a Land Acknowledgement and Akomawt event in the Dodd Center. On Tuesday, the Human Rights Institute and UConn Global will host André Keet to discuss decolonization.
A campus dialogue will occur on Wednesday in the Rainbow Center centering on “belated justice.,” and on Thursday there will be a screening of the film “Dawnland” in Konover. Furthermore, there will be a petition table on the first floor of the Student Union all week long to support officially changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.
Education— this week, and beyond— will help to give credit where it is due as opposed to honoring figures who may be undeserving.
“I think it is important for us as individuals to take time in doing our own research,” Miloz said, “and not be afraid to question the history that has been taught to us.”
Alex Houdeshell is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.