Students Gather in Yard to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Damon Clark at Indigenous Peoples' Day
Damon J. Clark '17 speaks at the Indigenous Peoples' Day event Monday afternoon, hosted by the Native Americans at Harvard College student group. The event's purpose was to celebrate Indigenous cultures as well as to encourage supporters to sign a petition urging the University to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Harvard affiliates joined with dining services strikers in the Yard Monday afternoon to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day with a ceremony that included cultural dances, chants, music, and spoken word to honor the culture of Native American groups.

According to organizers, the primary objective of the gathering was to petition the College to recognize the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day.

Native Americans at Harvard College president Damon J. Clark ’17 said the group seeks this change in light of the University’s historical commitment to Native Americans.

“Harvard needs to lead. If Harvard leads, others will follow,” he said. “Harvard has a commitment to Native Americans as old as Harvard.”

Natives Among Us
Cantabrigian Pua Higginson, right, and Cambridge Rindge and Latin student Caroline Daley, left, perform a traditional Tahitian dance in Harvard Yard at the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday afternoon. As Harvard University recognizes the holiday as Columbus Day, the culture group Native Americans at Harvard hosted the event to praise native culture and advocate for the university to accept the new title.

The event began outside Matthews Hall, where students taped handmade signs with phrases such as “Columbus Was No Hero” and “Celebrate Indigenous Resistance.” After two hours of celebration in the Yard, the crowd of roughly 150 people moved to Ticknor Lounge for a dinner with traditional Native American foods.

Though Native Americans at Harvard College have organized similar commemorations in past years, this year’s event coincided with a Harvard University Dining Services rally outside Massachusetts Hall, and participants in the HUDS rally joined in the festivities.

HUDS worker William Ridgley, who is Native American, said at the ceremony that both the Native Americans at Harvard College and HUDS workers are working to have their voice heard by the Harvard administration.

Native Notification
Kathleen L. Jackson of the African and African American Studies Department and Ian P. Maynor '17 tape signs at the Indigenous Peoples' Day celebration.

Event organizers said they wanted to showcase how their efforts go beyond Harvard College at the event. As a part of the ceremony, a group of students from the Harvard Graduate School of Education spoke of their support for the movement and the importance of including Native American narratives in education.

The Native Americans of Harvard College enjoy support from the Undergraduate Council and Student Advisory Committee in their efforts, and hope to have hundreds sign a petition supporting their efforts as well, according to Clark.

“We believe our simple request for Indigenous People’s Day is representation of hope and how actions can create a movement and become a policy,” Clark said.


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