The Native American Students at Cornell organization will host five days of events this week to commemorate indigenous cultures.
The celebrations, called Indigenous Peoples’ Day: A Week of Celebration, come about six months after the Student Assembly passed a resolution deciding to recognize Indigenous People’s Day in lieu of Columbus Day, responding to calls from the Cornell Native American community. Several identity-based student groups on campus supported the resolution, and it eventually passed unanimously.
“A promotion of Indigenous Peoples is a logical step forward in strengthening Cornell’s commitment to campus-wide diversity and inclusion,” the resolution reads.
Events for the inaugural Indigenous People’s Day celebration will include dinners, a lecture by a guest speaker and a game night, according to NASAC Co-Chair Alyssa Jaquin ’18.
“We want to get the Cornell community to acknowledge that Cornell is established on the traditional homeland of the Cayuga Nation,” Jaquin said. “Even though there is an impression that natives and their communities don’t exist anymore, that’s not case. It’s hard to exist here in a place where the majority of people here are not aware of us.”
The Cayuga Nation was one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and was forcibly removed by the Continental Army in 1779, according to Jaquin. Jaquin said she believes it is important for the University to recognize the history of indigenous people in New York, both because they are a underrepresented group in American universities and because Cayuga people continue to reside greater Ithaca area.
Jaquin also said it is important to make sure the celebration of Indigenous culture is not a singular event, but rather becomes an annual tradition for Cornell.