It might be Columbus Day on the calendar, but students and staff at Syracuse University spent Monday celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The events were led by Regina Jones, Assistant Director in SU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs. Jones is a Native American who has lived in the area her entire life, and says she wants to spread awareness of the University’s day of celebration, which it adopted last year.
"It's not really about Columbus. It's about our survival throughout war, genocide, and boarding schools. We're still here, we still have our ceremonies, our language, our sovereign government, our clan system. So we celebrate that we're still here."
Diane Wiener is director of the disability cultural center at SU.
"We are not not vanishing. And the indigenous peoples in this city, in this community, and on this campus are not vanishing. If they do vanish, it's because of oppression and that we can't be idly watching that occur. We have to do something about it."
Wiener stresses the need for students to feel empowered as they come together on this day, as members of both their college community and the larger Syracuse community.
Regina Jones adds that the University has been nothing but supportive of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the groups’ efforts to spread awareness. She says creating dialogue on the topic and trying to educate people one at a time are crucial if the group is to succeed.
"My biggest motivation is to educate others. I think most of the SU population is not from this area, so many don't understand that this is originally indigenous land, specifically of the Onondaga Nation."
A panel discussion to highlight the struggles for indigenous peoples’ rights will be held tonight at the S-U’s Hall of Languages at 7 p.m. The discussion includes members of indigenous tribes, as well as University students and professors.