An Unforgotten History: Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day

By Sam Sanson

In a two-piece, Southern-style buckskin with floor length fringe, Carissa Sherman ’21 strides through the Cornerstone Main Space. She stops at a microphone and reads a poem. 

“Everything but round, my grandma and I laugh. Bread is bread, it doesn’t matter what it looks like,” she says toward the end of the piece.

Loud applause erupts, and the next performer is announced, followed by another model, a poetry reading, a song and a dance. 

Nearly 50 Colorado College students, faculty, and community members enjoyed the festivities as the Oct 10 Indigenous Peoples’ Day brought nonstop festivities.

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a movement which recognizes the true history of European contact with the first peoples of the Americas and celebrates the survival of contemporary Indigenous peoples,” says the CC website. 

Various places, including Oregon, Alaska, and Minnesota, have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in a conscious effort to reject Columbus’ colonialist legacy and in its stead acknowledge Indigenous resistance and resilience. 

Multiple Colorado bills have proposed that the state cease to recognize Columbus Day, all of which have failed to pass. However, some cities like Boulder and Denver have officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. For the past few years the Colorado Springs City Council has issues proclamations ackowledging Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but none have been legally binding or permanent. The college celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day was organized by the Native American Student Union and The Department of Anthropology. 

The event began with introductions of the Ute visitors who traveled to CC for the festivities. Then, the audience enjoyed red chili stew with buffalo meat and corn stew, brought by community members. 

“The food was amazing,” Mia Hsu ’20 said. “I had never had many of the dishes that were provided and found the three sisters soup to be especially delicious.”

The celebration then transitioned into student-run cultural sharing. Performances included modeling by Juni Wolf-Velarde ’23, Fer Juarez Duran ’23, and Tyrien Fixico ’21 and poems read by CooXooEii Black ’20, Dominique Jasperse ’23, and Sherman.

“I was amazed at the songs and spoken word performed by the students,” said Debbie Howell, CC Elder-in-Residence. Howell helped students who modeled traditional clothing and provided general assistance at the event. 

A memorable moment of the evening was a hoop dance of the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico performed by Howell’s son Steven. 

When Steven Howell held up the hoops in a sphere, “he looked like he held the world,” Sherman said. “I was reminded of the worlds that I carry and the worlds we carry as Indigenous peoples.”

The film “Edge of the Knife” was scheduled to be shown after the student performances, though weather and schedule shifts forced the organizers to omit the screening at the last minute. Instead, Sherman and Andres Madrigal ’22 led a discussion about language and culture, in which the Ute visitors actively participated. 

“It’s not an easy thing to live your culture,” one unnamed visitor said, “but it makes you stronger and closer to the creators.” 

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