Celebrating the history and culture of Indigenous peoples

Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrates and commemorates the histories and culture of the Native American populations that were living on the American land before Christopher Colombus’ arrival. Photo by Boston Public Library on Unsplash

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday that honors Native and Indigenous peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. 

This holiday is celebrated on the same day as Columbus Day to act as a counter-celebration and confront the violent history of colonization in the United States. Many states have chosen not to celebrate the federal holiday and have changed the name to Indigenous Peoples’ Day to recognize the Native American populations that were living on American soil prior to Christopher Columbus’ arrival. 

The Native American Cultural Program (NACP) at UConn has designated the entire week as Indigenous Peoples’ Week and are using this time to offer a wide array of events and programming that fosters important conversations about the impact of colonialism and the resilience of Indigenous communities. 

The goal of this week is to generate more visibility for the NACP and the Native American and Indigenous Student Association (NAISA) at UConn, as well as educate students about the ongoing effects of colonization. 

It is important to be aware that UConn is a public land grant university and, thus, is a direct product of the violent relocation of Native American tribes. UConn’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion worked closely with the Akomawt Educational Initiative to create a Land Acknowledgment Statement that recognizes the history of the territory and encourages students and faculty to be mindful of the land that they operate on.   

To start off the week, the NACP organized a Quinektikut Blanket Exercise facilitated by the Akomawt Educational Initiative. This interactive learning experience led participants through various themes vital to the history of Indigenous people, such as land dispossession, culturally genocidal policies and the effects of colonialism. This history-based activity was held virtually through Zoom and provided important historical background. 

The NACP also released a video on their Instagram page entitled “Indigenous at UConn #WeAreStillHere” that features members of the Indigenous community at UConn sharing their stories about how they have embraced their culture and identity and what being Indigenous means to them. 

For the remainder of the week, there will be a diverse array of events that allow members of the UConn community to become more educated about the history of Indigenous people. 

Dyami Thomas, a motivational speaker and enrolled member of the Klamath tribes in Southern Oregon, will be discussing suicide prevention, health and wellness, self-motivation and domestic violence. 

There will also be a discussion about the current fight against CT Indian Mascots and the negative effects they have on Indigenous communities. This has been a topic of controversy around the state for a while and many lawmakers have been pushing for schools to ban Native American nicknames and logos. 

Two virtual film screenings will also take place this week. “AWAKE, A Dream from Standing Rock” is the story of tribes who peacefully resisted the government’s plan to construct an oil pipeline through their land, capturing the nation’s attention. This native-led defiance was a turning point in the fight for a better, cleaner environment. The second screening will feature “Retablo”, which shares the story of a young boy who is being trained in his family tradition of building religious retablos. 

The week will conclude with a discussion entitled “This is What Indigenous Looks Like” where NAISA members will share their own experiences of being Indigenous at UConn. 

It is important to remember and pay homage to the millions of Indigenous people that inhabited the country prior to Columbus’ arrival. The NACP and NAISA are working to increase awareness about Indigenous people by sharing their own experiences with the UConn community in hopes of creating more awareness about their cultures, traditions, and ways of life. 

For more information on these events visit the NACP website

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