UConn club petitions to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day

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A child holds a poster about Indigenous Peoples Day during a blessing and rally before a march Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, in Seattle. In 2014, the Seattle City Council voted to stop recognizing Columbus Day and instead turned the second Monday in October into a day of recognition of Native American cultures and peoples. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The University of Connecticut Native American Cultural Society (NACS) is petitioning for the university to recognize Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day.

“Following in the footsteps of many cities and towns across America, as well as in our own state of Connecticut, changing the name for this holiday will allow the truth of history to unfold and begin to rightfully honor the pasts of the indigenous people to whom this land initially belonged,” the petition reads.

Brooke Parmalee, NACS treasurer and seventh-semester philosophy and human rights double major, said the petition has been closed and the organization collected 1,301 signatures throughout the week they were petitioning.

“We are excited to see all the support from the students, faculty and community members who signed our petition and are taking steps now to see what comes next,” Parmalee said.

Parmalee said NACS decided to create the petition to fulfill the mission of UConn’s Native American Cultural Programs, which is to educate people and provide advocacy for Natives on campus and throughout the community.

“We feel that the glorification and acknowledgement of Columbus on this day has been rampant throughout our education systems and is harmful to the indigenous community as a whole,” Parmalee said. “By focusing the discussion on Columbus and his ‘discovery’ of a land already occupied by indigenous peoples, the indigenous community is often left out of the discussion.”

Columbus’ exploration and colonization efforts stripped hundreds of thousands of natives of their land, resources, freedom and lives, Parmalee said.

“By changing ‘Columbus Day’ to ‘Indigenous People’s Day’, we will be able to honor the indigenous peoples who have been, and continue to be, negatively affected as a result of Columbus’ colonization efforts,” Parmalee said.

The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Governing Board formally recognized Oct. 8, 2018 as Indigenous People’s Day rather than Columbus Day, putting out a statement saying they wanted to uplift and advocate for those for whom an Indigenous People’s Day recognition has significant meaning.

“In recognizing Oct. 8, 2018 as Indigenous People’s Day, we proclaim the importance of acknowledging the history of indigenous people, their contributions, past and present and the legacy of indigenous history and culture in the very existence of this great state,” a press release from USG said. “We would like to recognize the numerous indigenous communities in Connecticut, including but not limited to the Mohegan, Mashantucket Pequot, Eastern Pequot, Schaghticoke, Golden Hill Paugussett and Nipmue Peoples.”

“Let it be known that this is not our way of erasing history,” the press release said. “In fact, through this recognition we acknowledge the full scope of history that has not been recognized in the past.”

Fifth-semester psychology major Jake Harkalay said he doesn’t know why people feel the need to replace Columbus Day.

“I don’t understand why they can’t leave Christopher Columbus Day alone and create another day for Native Americans,” fifth-semester psychology major Jake Harakaly said. “Just leave Chris alone.”


Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.

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