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Native Americans Assail Columbus Day

By Marc J. Ambinder, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Five hundred and five years after Christopher Columbus arrived in North America, members and supporters of the Native American Program at Harvard celebrated their "unobservance of Columbus Day."

More than 80 people gathered for a candlelight reading in the front of the John Harvard statue last night.

Annabel L. Bradford '98, a member of Native Americans at Harvard-Radcliffe, initiated the evening by relating her feelings about Columbus Day.

"I've always wondered how to spend this day," she said. "In past years, I've retreated to my home in the mountains, spent it with my family, and rooted myself in my community," she said.

She then read from a 17th-century Native American prophecy, which related the first encounter between Europeans and Native Americans.

"The event will help raise awareness about the dominant culture's interpretation of civilization since Columbus's arrival," said Dean A. Flechs, a staff member of the Harvard Native American Program, which is affiliated with the Graduate School of Education.

The candlelight celebration was held to "make the statement that things aren't always as they seem to be," he added.

Many of the participants said Harvard's recognition of Columbus Day as an official holiday is offensive to Native Americans.

"I don't think we should be lending support for someone who enslaved Native Americans," said Shai M. Sachs '01.

"I think the fact that Harvard sanctions this holiday makes me feel alienated," Bradford added.

The program "emerged on campus as part of a national self-determination movement" in 1970, according to the Native American Program.

Twenty years later, it officially became the Harvard University Native American Program.

One hundred and twenty Harvard students, representing more than 40 tribes and nations, identify themselves as Native Americans, members of the Native American Program said.

Other participants read contemporary commentary on the lives of Native Americans a half century after Columbus's arrival.

One of the final speakers of the evening, Morgan F. R. Andrews, a part-time Extension School student, described how he placed fake parking tickets on cars around Cambridge, bearing the message, "Happy Columbus Day!"

The back of the card "inform[ed] people that they are parked on stolen land," he said.

The evening's goal, said organizer Desiree R. Martinez, was not to protest Columbus Day.

The event was designed to convey the message that "Columbus Day is not a day of celebration for Native Americans," she said, adding that Columbus's 1492 arrival in the North American continent "started the decimation of Native Americans in the Americas.

The evening's goal, said organizer Desiree R. Martinez, was not to protest Columbus Day.

The event was designed to convey the message that "Columbus Day is not a day of celebration for Native Americans," she said, adding that Columbus's 1492 arrival in the North American continent "started the decimation of Native Americans in the Americas.

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