Across the country, many colleges are holding events to celebrate “Indigenous Day,” which for many years has been celebrated as a federal holiday to honor Christopher Columbus Aborigines.
The Denmus Museum Center, located at Northwestern Michigan College, will offer a free admission and an outdoor event hosted by Todd Parker, a free American success instructor, and members of the NMC’s Native American Student Organization.
Unk Shik, an indigenous student organization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will also host a one-session pavilion at Gordon Commons in the evening.
For the first time, Boston University will celebrate Indigenous Day to celebrate the “achievements of Indigenous, Native American and First Nations people.”
On its website, the university has compiled a proposed reading list in honor of the holiday.
Stanford University, meanwhile, has launched a “land recognition” website respecting relationships with local people. Schools say it encourages the use of land recognition at events to celebrate the relationship with Muvekma Ohlon and other indigenous communities.
The University of Buffalo issued a similar announcement saying it would celebrate Indigenous Day in honor of the Indigenous people who were the first inhabitants of North America.
“UB acknowledges that our campuses are a traditional heritage site of the Seneca Nation, a member of the Houdenosauni Confederation, and that the region serves as the habitat of the Houdenosauni people,” the school said in a statement. “Furthermore, we responsibly acknowledge the continued influence of colonialism in Houdenosauni and their territories.”
Columbus Day has been embroiled in controversy for decades. On October 12, 1492, which now lands in the Bahamas, Columbus, an Italian, was the first wave of European explorers to destroy the local population in search of gold and other resources in America, including human slavery.
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President Joe Biden surprised many on Friday after announcing the president for the first time on Indigenous Day. The day will be celebrated with Columbus Day established by Congress.
“For generations, federal policies have sought to systematically integrate and displace indigenous peoples and eradicate indigenous culture,” Biden wrote in the Indigenous Day declaration. “Today, we acknowledge the resilience and strength of Indigenous peoples, as well as the immense positive impact they have had on every aspect of American society.”
In a separate proclamation on Columbus Day, Biden praised the role of Italian Americans in American society, but noted the violence and loss of researchers from Columbus and other American eras.
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“Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of injustice and atrocities that many European explorers have imposed on indigenous peoples and indigenous communities,” Biden wrote. “It’s a measure of our greatness as a nation that we don’t want to bury these shameful episodes of our past – so that we can honestly face them, bring them to light, and try our best to address them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.