Last year, many students and faculty at Graceland dedicated weeks of their time to set up informational booths around campus to petition the celebration of Columbus Day on campus. Posters were designed, shirts were inked, and events were held in order to get the university to change the name on the school calendar.
This year marks the first year that Graceland has celebrated the lives and histories of American Indians. Many cities, states, and universities are changing the name on their calendars and practicing new celebration activities.
On campus, many Graceland students and faculty participated in roundhouse dances and prayer last night on the Commons Lawn. Dee White Eye, the personal counselor on campus, led the group in honoring the four directions using traditional medicine. Everyone took a pinch of tobacco, the traditional medicine from the South, and held it to the sky as they prayed silently. After giving the medicine to the fire, the groups walked in a clockwise direction and moved toward the dance circle.
Here are a list of some states, cities, and universities that celebrate Indigenous People’s Day
- South Dakota
- Los Angeles, CA
- Nashville, TN
- Seattle, WA
- Phoenix, AZ
- Davenport, IA
- Graceland Univesity
- Cornell University
- Syracuse Univesity
- Minnesota State University, Mankato
- University of Utah
- Brown University
Later this afternoon, Graceland is also sponsoring another event entitled “Between Columbus and the Confederacy: Why Do Memorials Matter?” The panel, taking place at 4 pm in the Shaw Center Lobby, will consist of Dr. Steve Glazer, Dr. Raquel Moreira, Leslie Robinson, and Dee White Eye. Along with talking about the importance of recognizing Indigenous People’s Day above Columbus Day, the event will touch on how celebrations and holidays impact how we understand our cultures.
Time Magazine writes,
Why is Columbus Day so controversial now?
Critics of Columbus Day argue that the holiday does not celebrate the discovery of America, but instead honors the mass genocide and colonization of the people indigenous to the land.
“[Columbus] was one of the first Europeans to get to the American continent, but there was a lot of history that came after that in terms of the wiping out of native people,” Loni Hancock, the mayor of Berkeley in 1992 and former California state senator, told TIME in 2014. “It just didn’t seem appropriate. It seemed like a reemphasizing of history and recognizing that to be very ethnocentric really diminishes us all.”
There are people, though, who aren’t fans of changing the day to recognize these groups of displaced people. Michael Graham, a journalist from The Federalist, argues that due to the torture and slavery that existed in American Indian culture they shouldn’t be awarded a holiday. This argument, however, implies that the people that were murdered and hunted by European colonialists aren’t worthy of being remembered instead of their attackers. The murders committed by these Europeans in order to develop the new world bloomed from the idea of ethnic cleansing, and that is what we’re choosing not to celebrate on Indigenous People’s Day.