Powerful speeches and songs filled Cross Campus on Monday as dozens of students and community members celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day at an afternoon rally.
With events hosted every year by the Association of Native Americans at Yale, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated in place of Columbus Day to recognize and celebrate the strength, resilience and beauty of Indigenous communities in the face of settler colonialism, according to the event’s Facebook page. Monday’s rally included speeches from members of the Yale and greater-New Haven communities, a musical performance from Blue Feather Drum Group and a community-wide round dance. When celebrations concluded, ANAAY invited Yalies to sign a petition urging the University to recognize and celebrate the holiday.
“Most places that celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day have done away with Columbus Day,” said Norman Momowetu Clement, a confederate member of the Quinnipiac people. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to do that here in New Haven, but we’re not going to give up fighting this fight. We want Columbus erased from history. We don’t want to ever have to think of Columbus again.”
Clement said that though the Quinnipiac people are no longer one of Connecticut’s recognized tribes and are not federally acknowledged, they still have a presence in Connecticut even if they are not “right here.” As a confederate member of the group, Clement said he can speak on behalf of the Quinnipiac people at events like Indigenous Peoples’ Day, even though he is not related to them by blood.
On Monday, the Office of the Secretary and Vice President for Student Life released an official land acknowledgement statement recognizing “that indigenous peoples and nations … have stewarded through generations the lands and waterways of what is now the state of Connecticut.” The announcement states that this approved University language can be used in the opening remarks of events to show recognition and respect, as well as to create a broader awareness of Indigenous histories.
During her speech, Mikki Metteba ’22 emphasized the role Indigenous people play in combating injustice of all kinds.
“While today is about celebrating, it is also about emphasizing our solidarity with other Indigenous peoples, not just the populations in what is called the US,” Metteba said. “Throughout the centuries of settler colonialism Indigenous people have resisted and resisted. Today we celebrate the years and years of resistance and remember that wherever there is injustice, Indigenous people will stand beside those affected.”
She added that ANNAY stands with all Indigenous people across the world, and that the group supports the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition in its mission to make Yale divest from its holdings associated with the fossil fuel industry and Puerto Rican debt.
At the end of Monday’s rally, Metteba confronted Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun and asked why the University’s administrators were not listening to students’ concerns about fossil fuels and divestment. She said that if Chun wanted to attend the group’s rally, he should take their demands of divestment seriously.
Other attendees, like Elea Hewitt ’21, called Chun complicit because he has “the option to do something and [doesn’t] do anything.”
In an email to the News, Chun said that he was unable to answer the group’s questions regarding both divestment and the University’s choice not to adopt the holiday, but added that he hoped they understood that he attended the event to show support for the community.
“At one point, a student asked me to address questions about Yale’s investments in fossil fuels, an issue that I know upsets many students,” Chun wrote. “I also understand that students are eager for Yale to take swift action. Although I was not able to answer their questions well, I do hope that I was able to convey my original purpose in being at the event: to show my support for the Native community.”
Gabriella Blatt ’21, the president of ANAAY, said she was excited that the event was highlighted in the Yale College Council’s catch-up email, as this was the first time Indigenous Peoples’ Day had been recognized by “an official Yale group.”
Still, Blatt added that by refusing to recognize the holiday, she believes the University is not welcoming Indigenous students.
“Yale University chooses not to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. They would rather stay neutral as to not offend [students and donors],” Blatt said. “[The University asks] how [it] can make Yale a more inclusive place for Indigenous students yet [it] can’t even do the bare minimum and send an email recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
A Testimonios Workshop will take place at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, followed by a keynote address and a traditional dinner at the Native American Cultural Center at 6 p.m. to cap the two-day celebration.
ANAAY was established in 1989.
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