This semester a group of students and faculty are coming together for a common cause: abolishing the use of “Columbus Day” on campus and, hopefully, in Lamoni. The idea has been around for a long time and recently different groups and states have been changing their organizational and governmental calendars to host the new name: “Indigenous Peoples Day.”
English professor Tim Robbins began pulling students together a few weeks ago through email, and last week some of them gathered together for an initial meeting. Robbins plans to work with the new personal counselor on campus, Dee White Eye.
The celebration began in Berkeley, California in 1992 when the city decided to protest Columbus Day with a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People”. Since then some states – such as Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Michigan, and South Dakota – do not celebrate Columbus Day, and earlier this week the city of Denver in Colorado passed a bill to change the name of the day permanently to “Indigenous Peoples Day”. Minnesota State University, University of Utah, and Cornell University have all permanently changed their academic calendars to include “Indigenous Peoples Day” instead of Columbus on the second Monday every October along with many other popular U.S. universities. This project hopes to add Graceland University to that list.
Tim Robbins and Dee White Eye are heading the project with students and faculty from many campus organizations such as Graceland Student Government, Campus Ministries, Sustainability, Polynesian Club, History Club, and Social Equality Alliance to make this a possibility at Graceland. Once they work toward getting it approved on the Lamoni campus, they want to bring the idea to Lamoni as well and possibly even the state of Iowa. It may seem like dreaming big, but this group of individuals won’t let anything get in their way of trying to make this important change.
“It’s high time to officially recognize the rich and varied cultures of America’s indigenous nations, many of which made and continue to make significant contributions to our country’s political and cultural history and identity,” Tim Robbins says. “Many colleges and universities, towns, cities, and states have done just this, and, year after year, more and more Indigenous People’s Day campaigns get off the ground across the United States. My hope is that the Graceland community, by drawing upon our deep faith in human dignity, mutual respect and social responsibility, will be the next to join this growing and important movement.”
Last week some of the group – Dee White Eye, Mike Hoffman, Matthew Moore, Tim Robbins, Ryan Schlom, and myself – met for the first time to decide the way best way to move forward with the proposal. The group hopes to gather student support within the next couple of days and then faculty support at the next faculty meeting this upcoming Friday. They hope to bring the proposal to the Equal Opportunity Committee and then to the Executive Council once approved.
Dee White Eye says, “As an American Indian, I am thrilled that others in this community would like to support this movement. It has been a long time coming.” Graceland has done many social justice projects throughout its history, and this is just another one that needs to be done.
There will be a table set up in the MSC Main Room from 11am to 4pm this upcoming Monday, October 10th, with information about the project so far and the hopes of an event later in the month if the change to the calendar is approved.
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