Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day
October 12, 2020
Today is Monday, October 12, which has been recognized as a federal and state holiday in honor of Christopher Columbus since 1937. As many of you are well aware, this recognition has been rightly contested—publicly since the 1970s—since Christopher Columbus demonstrably did not “discover” any new land or country, as so many of us were taught in school that he did.
In many states today, October 12 is now more appropriately recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, though as we all know, what we owe Indigenous People in this country is far more substantive, complex, and long-lasting than a single day of acknowledgement or celebration. Nonetheless, as President of Colorado State University, I believe that the recognition of this day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day is consistent with our Principles of Community and our commitment to being anti-racist and to moving our national conversations forward, not backward. And I was frankly appalled to see the White House’s recent statement reaffirming the false historical narrative of not only Columbus’s “discovery” of the Americas but of white “settling” of this continent and “taming of the wilderness.”
At CSU, Native and Indigenous students, faculty and staff work, study, teach, engage, and conduct research across campus and in every college. They also represent the needs and priorities of their communities in the Native American Cultural Center and on the Native American Advisory Council, both of which advise me directly. We have created and adopted a Land Acknowledgement Statement crafted by the NAAC, and now regularly open both informal and formal university events with a reading of this statement or a showing of the powerful video version—also developed by Native faculty, staff, and students at CSU.
We are committed to respecting and addressing the needs and priorities of the Indigenous community members every day, not just on October 12. But we welcome the opportunity to celebrate this community on this day. This year, with COVID-19 restricting what we can do in person, we are grateful to our Office of the Vice President for Diversity for putting together a wonderful list of resources for Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The Native American Cultural Center will be celebrating virtually tonight with an event, to which all are welcome.