Columbus Day

The civil disobedience campaign dubbed “Moral Monday” made its way to St. Louis University today, where protesters continued to speak out against the killing of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and that of Vonderitt Myers Jr. in St. Louis earlier this month.

Attendees said these men’s lives were “cut short by police brutality and systemic racism.”

The Washington Post reports:

Chanting “hands up, don’t shoot,” marchers headed toward St. Louis University. University security and police officers tried to stop the protest from entering the campus.

“I am a student, I have my ID, and I have a lot of guests,” a protest leader said into the megaphone.

On SLU’s campus Monday morning, protest leaders addressed the crowd. They said their demonstration was about ending white supremacy and addressing systemic problems people face regardless of race.

“This is the real definition of resistance … this thing right here that we’re doing right now is not only a symbolism of what we can do when we stick together, this is … It’s the beginning in a change in our consciousness as a people, as a human race,” Dhoruba Shakur said.

They noted the significance of it being Columbus Day, calling him “the first looter” and saying they were “reclaiming” the college campus. “I know this was a college a couple of hours ago, but as of right now this is our spot and we not going nowhere,” a protest leader said.

Former Princeton professor Cornel West was among the protesters who were arrested:


Read the full article.

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IMAGE: Light Brigading/Flickr

Today UC Berkeley will mark its third annual “Indigenous People’s Day Celebration” – the same day as the federal Columbus Day observance.

The university has for years shunned Columbus Day celebrations, and in the past the campus community has openly protested the holiday and helped take part in the city of Berkeley’s annual Indigenous Peoples Day activities.

More recently, the university has put on its own festivities to mark the occasion, and today will offer performances, lectures and other activities. The effort is a collaboration between several campus groups, including the UC Berkeley department of theater, dance and performance studies, the American Indian Graduate Student Association, and the equality and inclusion department.

But it was not a hatred for Columbus that served as the impetus for the annual campus observance.

The university observance was prompted, interestingly enough, by a controversial Native American-themed play at the campus in the spring of 2012 that some students felt offered an “inaccurate and harmful depiction of Native American culture,” The Daily Californian student newspaper reported.

That historical-fiction play, “Ishi: The Last of the Yahi,” was put on by the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies.

The Yahi band had lived near Gold Rush territory, and prospectors and settlers killed many, and seized their land and rivers, where they fished for salmon to survive on, according to We Are California.

“In 1871 the handful of surviving Yahi fled to the Sierra foothills, where they lived hidden in the mountain wilderness for 40 years,” the website states. “The last known member of the Yahi walked out of the hills in August 1911. He became known as ‘Ishi’ (meaning ‘man’), the ‘last of the Yahi.’ Ishi lived for five more years and died in 1916.”

Ishi has often been referred to as “the last wild Indian,” and when he stumbled out of the wilderness those decades ago he immediately became the center of attention and study.

“The play, according to the department’s website, explores the life of Ishi, the last remaining member of the Yahi tribe, and his time as an object of study at the campus Hearst Museum of Anthropology with anthropologist Alfred Kroeber beginning in 1911,” the Daily Cal reports.

Berkeleyside.com described the play like this:

It is an entertaining, although deeply disturbing, play, filled with scenes of prejudiced white men massacring Indians for a $5-a-head state bounty, gunfire, rape, murder, cannibalism, and even academic jealousy. But if you are shocked and disturbed after seeing it, (and at three Ishihours long, you see a lot) then … the artistic director of Theater Rhinoceros in San Francisco and a frequent lecturer in the theater department, will have attained his goal. He clearly wants to tell people about this unknown chapter of California history: that the slaughter of Native Americans also happened here, not just at Wounded Knee or on the Trail of Tears.

But the play was met with harsh criticism, including a review described on NativeAppropriations.com as follows:

… Ishi: The Last of the Yahi … attempts to justify the gross violences committed against Native peoples through its portrayal of Ishi as a batterer, murderer, and rapist. While arguably the production evidences some meager attempts to provide a more nuanced version of history, ultimately, the play endeavors to erase not only Ishi, but also all Native peoples, who through the production’s monolithic representation of Native Americans are conflated with the Yahi. When the play is not depicting Native peoples as extinct, it suggests that Native Americans are not “survivors” or “victims,” but instead, were asking for it: “Maybe Manifest Destiny was a two-way street.”

A petition tried to get the show cancelled, and it was signed by 393 people, but ultimately failed to shut it down, according to iPetitions.com.

The department chair of the theater, dance and performance studies quickly retreated from the play’s subject matter after the blow back.

“I don’t think we expected the reaction that we got,” he told The Daily Cal. “We consider that an oversight on our part. We should have been more sensitive and vigilant about the subject matter.”

After that, UC Berkeley’s annual “Indigenous People’s Day Celebration” was created. It’s held inside a dance studio on campus. This year it will feature a hoop dance, cultural presentation, language and story telling, and other discussions.

“Rather than Columbus Day, this is a movement to recognize indigenous people,” a grad student told The Daily Cal in 2013 about the annual tradition. “It’s about recognizing these cultures rather than the defeat of these cultures.”

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Last Wednesday, the Seattle School Board voted unanimously to celebrate “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” on the (federal) Columbus Day holiday.

The Board said it “recognizes the fact that Seattle is built upon the homelands and villages of the Indigenous Peoples of this region, without whom the building of the City would not have been possible.”

Fox Q13 in Seattle reports:

The resolution also says the board “has a responsibility to oppose the systematic racism towards Indigenous people in the United States, which perpetuates high rates of poverty and income inequality, exacerbating disproportionate health, education and social crises.”

It urges district staff to “include the teaching of the history, culture and government of the indigenous peoples of our state.”

The Seattle City Council will vote next Monday, Oct. 6, whether to celebrate “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” on the same day as the Columbus Day holiday.

“We know Columbus Day is a federal holiday, we are not naive about that, but what we can do and what you have seen is a movement,” said Matt Remle, supporter of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day designation.

Some Italian-Americans weren’t thrilled with sharing Columbus Day, however. Many support the idea of an Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday … but would prefer it celebrated on a different day.

Read more here.

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The student government at Arizona State University has voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People Day. The Tempe Undergraduate Student Government Senate passed Bill 44 to rename the holiday after contentious debate on campus.

Christopher Columbus has long been known as an admirable adventurer in American lore whose adventurous spirit led him to “discover” America. But, in recent years his legacy has faced mounting criticism for the perceived negative effects his life had on Native Americans.

In the United States, Columbus Day is an official federal holiday. However, not all states recognize the day. South Dakota, instead, celebrates Native American Day. The name “Indigenous People Day” originated in Berkley, California, a city that began celebrating the holiday as an alternative to Columbus Day in 1992.

In Tempe, students were split on the issue. Those in support of the change believed that the bill was a positive way to commemorate the Native Americans whose lives they say were lost as a result of Columbus’s arrival to the New World. The opposition said the bill was an example of unnecessary political correctness. There was also another group that preferred that the campus do away with celebrating the day for either cause.

Many admirers of Columbus view him as a symbol of exploration, perseverance, innovation and the beginning of the American spirit. However, critics of the famous explorer paint a darker picture of the man, and more broadly, of European settlement of the New World that he represents. They often cite, for example, the diseases carried by European explorers like Columbus and his men, which caused the deaths of many Native Americans.

An editorial in The State Press, a campus student newspaper, praised the intent behind the name change. “When we recognize the holiday as Columbus’ Day, we already remember the person who launched the trajectory that left Native Americans in the state they are today — living on reservations where they suffer from the lowest rates of education and health care in the country.”

However, Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity questions the rationale behind the name change. “There’s nothing wrong with celebrating Native America — as a heritage, not a race, since the principle of E pluribus unum means that we shouldn’t be singling out particular races for celebration,“ he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the heroic explorers of America either.”

“We should be able to celebrate both without denigrating either. The juxtaposition in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People Day, on the other hand, is a silly anti-Western statement and a celebration of fashionable victimhood,” Clegg added.

Bill 44 has been passed in Tempe, but Columbus, his legacy and his holiday remain controversial subjects. It is clear that Columbus’s complicated legacy will continue to inspire controversy for a long time to come.

Fix Contributor Blake Baxter is a student at Eureka College.

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Though Columbus Day is just a normal Monday for Columbia, students took to College Walk for protests—and hamburgers.

As members of the Native American Council and Latino outreach group Lucha held separate activist events, the Columbia University College Republicans threw their annual barbecue to “celebrate the day we should have off,” said Lauren Salz, CU Republicans chair.

Though the University does not officially recognize Columbus Day as a holiday, students from the Native American Council assembled for the fourth year in a row on Low Plaza to lobby for a school-wide celebration of Indigenous People’s Day.

Club leaders John Haney and Halley Hair said they hoped to spread awareness about issues surrounding indigenous groups in the Americas. NAC members spelled out “Indigenous People’s Day” along the right-hand wall facing Low Library in mock “Wanted” posters for Christopher Columbus. The posters accused Columbus of grand theft, genocide, racism, and “initiating the destruction of a culture.” […]

The College Republicans took advantage of the warm weather to host their annual barbecue on Van Am Quad, and handed out free food throughout. Salz said that she witnessed this tradition during her visit to Columbia as a junior in high school, and wanted to carry on the tradition during her time at the University. Salz acknowledged the other events, but said the barbecue was not meant to run counter to them.

“We are not in opposition to the other groups. We support their right to celebrate their causes,” Salz said. “We are simply using Columbus Day as a good excuse to have a holiday and eat good food.”

Read the full story at the Columbia Spectator.

The University of Oregon, unlike many universities in this country, does not get a day off for Columbus Day.

In fact, the holiday is not even present on the UO’s academic calendar, much to the dismay of the ASUO’s Multicultural Center and Native American Student Union. But, if the day were present on the academic calendar as “Columbus Day,” I can’t imagine the MCC and NASU would be any more pleased.

Today, in the EMU Amphitheater, NASU and the MCC are hosting an event for “Indigenous Solidarity Day,” complete with traditional drummers, speeches, red armbands, and t-shirts with the words “RED POWER” proudly displayed in bold, bright red text. Today’s protest, led by a Native American UO student and veteran, is considerably less abrasive than years past.

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