Members of the Yale community celebrated Indigenous People’s Day in a series of events — ranging from speaker events to a celebratory dance performance — that took place on campus from Sunday to Monday.
The events at the two-day celebration were organized by the Association of Native Americans at Yale, in conjunction with the Afro-American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural and the Asian American Cultural Center. Programming for the celebration began at noon on Sunday with a solidarity rally and concluded Monday night with a talk, organized by La Casa for Latinx Heritage month, by journalist Maria Hinojosa at the School of Management. Although members of the Yale community have celebrated Indigenous People’s Day for several decades, participants in this year’s events noted that the celebrations saw new levels of collaboration among Yale’s cultural centers and drew particularly large crowds. Director of the Native American Cultural Center Kelly Fayard, a member of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, told the News that the celebration was a “great success,” despite the heavy rainfall on Sunday and Monday. Fayard estimated that around 100 people participated in the various events held for Indigenous People’s Day.
“It’s definitely grown in scale,” said Haylee Kushi ’18 (Kanaka Maoli), president of the ANAAY. “It’s important to note that this year it’s grown particularly larger because we have involved all of the cultural centers this year … and our community has also just grown naturally.”
Kushi said Yale’s indigenous community has grown in part because of the addition of Dinée Dorame ’15 to the Yale admissions office as an assistant director and Native outreach and recruitment coordinator. According to Kushi, Dorame’s appointment a little over two years ago has helped ease the challenges students from indigenous backgrounds face when applying to Yale and drawn attention to the value they bring to the campus community.
One of the themes of this year’s celebration was a recognition of Latinx indigeneity and the connections between indigenous people across the Americas.
“Students wanted to emphasize hemispheric solidarity in order to recognize how Columbus’ arrival impacted not only Native North American communities but also Native Central and South American communities, along with the Caribbean,” Fayard said. The invited speaker for Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year was Margariata Huayhua, a scholar who studies language and power in Andean communities in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.
Sonora Taffa ’18, a Native student at Yale and a member of the Quechan tribe, noted that many cities, such as Los Angeles, already officially recognize and celebrate Indigenous People’s Day.
Raising campus awareness about issues pertaining to Native American and indigenous people more broadly has been a “longstanding commitment” of Yale’s Native American community, according to history professor Ned Blackhawk, a member of the Te-Moak tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada. He added that the celebration of Indigenous People’s Day at Yale has traditionally offered a unique opportunity for community members to draw attention to those issues.
Alanna Pyke ’19, who is Kanien’kéha of the Mohawk Nation and the vice president of ANAAY, said Indigenous People’s Day is significant to her as a celebration of “her own resistance, [her] ancestors’ resistance and resilience” and the survival of indigenous people in America even as “the odds were stacked against” them.
During a celebratory event on Monday — originally intended to take place on Cross Campus but moved inside the Schwarzman Center due to rain — attendees watched a round dance performance put on by the Blue Feather Drum Group. People passing through the event were also encouraged to take a look at two petitions — one demanding that Yale officially recognize Indigenous People’s Day and the other demanding that the University intervene in the development of a 192-mile transmission line, known as the Northern Pass, which would run through land owned by Yale, and which critics say would endanger both the environment and the local food supply of the Pessamit Innu tribe.
Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun told the News that while he regretted not being able to attend many of the program’s scheduled events, he was glad he participated in Monday’s celebration because he “wanted to support all the students who were involved in it, and to learn from it.”
Berkeley, California became the first city to officially adopt Indigenous People’s Day in 1992.
Britton O’Daly | firstname.lastname@example.org