Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated on the Pullman campus on October 11 with several events, including a film screening and a speech by a prominent Native American author and poet.
WSU began celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in 2018. A resolution passed by the Association of Graduate and Professional Students called for Columbus Day to be replaced with an opportunity to “actively encourage students to remember the colonial legacy of the policies and practices of the United States federal government. on Indigenous communities and seek to understand the strength and hope of Indigenous communities today.
Indigenous Peoples Day was officially recognized on the second Monday in October following a proclamation by WSU President Kirk Schulz.
This year’s events begin at 9 a.m. with a tipi assembly demonstration on Todd Steps, which is also where the Native American Student Center will be holding a table and passers-by can play “Indigenous Trivia”. A drummer group will also meet at Todd Steps at 10 a.m.
A light lunch at the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center will be followed by an opening speech by Kimberly Blaeser, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Blaeser’s speech begins at noon and will be broadcast, with a link coming soon to the WSU Women’s Center website.
At 4 pm, the cultural center will also host the screening of “Exterminate all the brutes”, a documentary series produced by Raoul Peck. The series deconstructs the making and masking of history and delves into the exploitative and genocidal aspects of European colonialism. A trailer is available online.
Past and present members of the WSU Vancouver Native American Community Advisory Board will host an Indigenous Peoples Day Forum in Room 129 of the Dengerink Administration Building starting at 1:30 pm The event will also be broadcast. via Zoom. The Vancouver campus hosts conferences related to Indigenous and Indigenous communities on issues of environmental justice and food equity throughout October. More information is available online.
When asked what Indigenous Peoples Day meant to her, Professor Zoe Higheagle Strong, Executive Director of Tribal Relations and Special Assistant to the Provost, recalled a phrase in the traditional language of Nez Perce nimipuutímt—‘itúu wic’and’ipecwise. She remembered the phrase after listening to a relative, Angel Sobotta, tell one of their tribe’s traditional stories linked to a sacred place above the Clearwater River.
“First, celebrating indigenous peoples means recognizing that our knowledge systems, our learning and our sense of responsibility have a deep connection to the land, or ‘wéetes,’ she said. “Second, that phrase means ‘What do you want / want to become?’ Our motivation for college and careers is deeply rooted in our responsibility to care for our land, our tribe, and all of our relationships. Life depends more on who we become as a human being than on what we accomplish.
In celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, Higheagle Strong calls on members of the WSU community to consider the issue of ‘itúu wic’and’ipecwise – who do they want to become.
WSU Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Chilton said: “As a land grant institution established under the Morrill Act of 1862, we must recognize our historic connection to the dispossession of Indigenous lands. The commemoration of Indigenous Peoples Day is only a small part of a larger institutional commitment to Indigenous Peoples in the present.
Higheagle Strong agrees.
“WSU strives to provide meaningful education, research and work that benefits the well-being of Washington residents and the land. As leaders of this institution, we will take a moment to reflect on our continued responsibility to recognize the colonial history of our university and to address the ways in which colonial practices continue today. As a university community, we must defend tribal sovereignty and continue to build meaningful relationships with indigenous communities, ”said Higheagle Strong.
Indigenous Peoples Day events are made possible through the efforts of regional tribal partners, Native American programs, Native American Student Center, Asian American and Pacific Islander Center, and the Native American Health Sciences. WSU also recognizes our Indigenous student organizations for their exceptional leadership—Indigenous student organizations, Hui Hau’oli O ‘Hawai’i (Hawai Club), and the Pacific Islanders Club.