Courtesy of Charles Gleberman

The Association of Native Americans at Yale and the Native American Cultural Center came together to produce a video in celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday, Oct. 12. 

Twenty eight students and Yale community members were invited to share the significance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, their favorite memories at the NACC, and the meaning of Indigenous joy.

“To me Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not only a time to reflect on those who came before you, but also to celebrate Indigenous cultures and Indigenous joy in every form,” said Seneca Johnson ’24, who is a member of the Muscogee and Seminole Nations, in a video montage released to honor the Native community at and beyond Yale.

Celebrated annually on the second Monday in October, the holiday commemorates the ongoing contributions and enduring legacy of Indigenous peoples. For many, Indigenous Peoples’ Day takes the place of Columbus Day, as the day is officially recognized by the state of Connecticut. It also shares a date with Italian Heritage Day in New Haven, the name for the commemorative mid-October holiday recently selected to replace Columbus Day by the city’s Board of Alders.

Notably absent on Monday were the drums, musical performances and traditional dances that enlivened Cross Campus this time last year. Because of the pandemic, the annual powwow hosted by ANAAY in the fall was also canceled this term. Plans about a spring semester powwow are still up in the air, according to ANAAY President Meghanlata Gupta ’21, who is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. 

Though unable to convene in person with the Native community at Yale, some students studying remotely are spending the day in their homes on tribal lands. Some shared greetings in tribal languages, and others wore traditional Native dress.

“It’s touching to be able to hear my Native peers be joyful from all across Indian Country,” wrote Hema Patel ’23, who is a member of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, in an email to the News. “Seeing their faces and smiles makes this day even more special!”

In the video, Gupta encouraged the Yale community to celebrate the work of Indigenous peoples who are pursuing justice, reclaiming languages and demonstrating the “beauty and strength” of Indigenous communities.  

EC Mingo ’22, a Cherokee Freedperson and Afro-Seminole, who was also featured in the video compilation, said, “I usually celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day by finding a nice article of reference for my friends explaining [the holiday’s] significance.”

The holiday, along with the Indigenous communities it celebrates, have continued to gain stature and visibility among the Yale community. Last year, the Yale University Art Gallery premiered “Place, Nations, Generations, and Beings,” its first exhibition of Indigenous art, while the Yale Repertory Theatre produced Mary Kathryn Nagle’s “Manahatta,” its first play by a Native playwright.

The University also adopted an official land acknowledgment statement last October recognizing that “indigenous peoples and nations … have stewarded through generations the lands and waterways of what is now the state of Connecticut”— a statement approved for use in the opening remarks of events and to spread awareness of Indigenous histories. 

“Indigenous People are often invisible or seen as historical relics in modern society,” wrote NACC Dean Matthew Makomenaw, who is a member of the Grand Traverse Bay Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, in an email to the News. “Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an opportunity to celebrate, recognize, and create space and visibility of contemporary Indigenous people.”

ANAAY was established in 1989.

Emily Tian | emily.tian@yale.edu