What started off as a petition passed around among students turned into a fully fledged protest where a diverse group of students stood in solidarity with Colorado College’s Native American Student Union (NASU) in asking Colorado College to recognize the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The idea of a petition came to the minds of some members of NASU while they were walking home from a pick-up basketball game and noticed some offensive posts on Yik-Yak, an anonymous app that lets you send out messages to people in your area. Instead of responding, the group decided to channel their energy outwards in a more positive manner.
“Since the posts are anonymous, we wanted to channel our anger and hurt into something constructive,” said NASU co-chair, Emily Lucas ’16. “We mostly did grassroots organizing, with each of us passing along the petition to other people we knew and trying to get the word out to a diverse group of people. We also held several planning meetings at our apartment.”
The last planning meeting on Sunday consisted of a poster-making session, which had an extremely good turn out; the posters were used on Monday during a demonstration, which took place in the Worner Campus Center.
“The protest initially consisted of a petition asking Colorado College to recognize the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day,” said Jennifer Murray, NASU co-chair ’17. “We also held a demonstration on Indigenous People’s day in Worner to bring attention to the struggles and microaggressions that Native people still face today, even on our own college campus.”
Although Worner may not initially be thought of as a good place for a protest, the location was a very intentional part of the demonstration.
“First of all, we wanted to make sure we were visible,” said Lucas. “Second, there was a lot of symbolism for us in the fact that people had to move out of the way or adjust their paths for us when historically, Native peoples have been the ones forced to relocate time and time again. Finally, it allowed us to have a more or less circular path, and the circle is sacred to most indigenous cultures.”
NASU’s efforts turned out to be successful. Before classes began on Monday, the College officially announced their recognition.
“The school basically heard about our petition and decided to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day without involving NASU in any way,” said Murray. “The Butler center didn’t ask us of our concerns or what we wanted to get out of it, which is disheartening as they are a self-described inclusive and respectful center for students. Despite the trivial politics, we achieved our goal.”
The goal of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is to celebrate and commemorate Native American history and, as Murray described, a day for people to be “proud of [their] beautiful culture.”
“For us, this change not only means that the school is recognizing the original inhabitants of this land over a major symbol of colonization and genocide,” said Lucas,” it also a) helped create solidarity, both between members of our own group, between our group and members of the outside Native community, and between NASU and our allies that came to support us, and b) left us feeling empowered by showing us that if we stood up together, we could make a difference, we could have people support us. For a group that’s frequently been ignored, that’s a pretty potent feeling.”