Student Senate has passed a resolution to begin officially recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. According to Student Body President Jose Garcia-Fuerte, different universities, cities and states across the U.S. have begun to recognize and substitute Indigenous Peoples’ Day for Columbus Day.
“We all agreed on the fact that Drake as a whole has never done anything to either observe, acknowledge or recognize the efforts and previous ownership of this land by the indigenous people,” Garcia-Fuerte said. “So, we decided to do this at Drake – not only do we owe it to our overall mission, but to the indigenous people that lived here before us.”
According to Garcia-Fuerte, the resolution was passed “with the intention of observing and respecting the land stolen from the Báxoǰe (Ioway), Sauk (Sac) and Meskwaki (Fox) peoples.”
Student Senators Maegan Valencia, Rebecca Perl, Runal Patel and Jose Garcia-Fuerte have been working with the Director of Student Engagement, Equity and Inclusion, Tony Tyler, to formulate programming this semester.
“We have been working closely with United Way and we are planning on having a movie screening and facilitated discussion on the documentary Lost Nation: the Ioway”,” Perl said. “It’s about the Ioway tribe that was on this land and their history, which is not commonly explored at Drake.”
Perl shared that this event will be on Oct. 22 in Sussman Theater at 7 p.m.
In order to provide more education on this topic, Student Senate is speaking with Timothy Knepper, a philosophy professor. Knepper conducts a lecture on the Lakota religious beliefs and practices and has opened up the lecture to be a part of the programming.
“It was really cool to see the Drake faculty wanting to engage and to know that we have support behind us,” Valencia said.
Student Senate began working on this programming in the summer and has reached out to the alumni network in order to connect with indigenous or Native American alumni, such as Alex Piedras, Director of Multicultural and Community Outreach at Grand View University.
According to Garcia-Fuerte, they reached out to get a perspective on how to appropriately and respectively move forward with the project and to find opportunities for collaboration.
Valencia states that this is an opportunity for students to see the Drake space in a different way.
“My hope for it is that it will make people think about the land that we exist and operate on just a little bit more past our event and to always be conscious of the space, what we do on the space and how we respect the land,” Valencia said.
According to Perl, this programming may help students recognize a system of inequality.
“I hope students can be held accountable for perpetuating a system of colonization,” Perl said. “Even if it was your ancestors who colonized this land, you still have to recognize that you play into the system every single day. In recognizing that, one can also identify ways to start dismantling that system.”
Perl also advocated for the awareness to stop cultural appropriation of indigenous people. Halloween has been a time where some have dressed up as an indigenous person in the past; furthermore, Perl wants people to be mindful that culture is not a costume.
Garcia-Fuerte states that this program marks the transition of a cultural shift in the way people think and talk about indigenous people.
“They should be treated just like any other human being, and we have seen many instances where that is not the case,” Garcia-Fuerte said.”