The Undergraduate Council on Monday overwhelmingly endorsed a motion calling for the University to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day a week after hearing a presentation from Native Americans at Harvard College President Damon J. Clark ’17.
“We're not a big population, we're very small,” Clark said in his presentation last week. “I think just recognizing our history is something we really want to address.”
Before his presentation, Clark distributed a memo to Council members, writing that “Native Americans at Harvard College (NAHC) insists the Harvard Undergraduate Council supports the initiative for Harvard University to officially-recognize the second Monday of October as ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day.’”
The national debate over renaming Columbus Day has grown in prominence over the past several years, with proponents arguing that Native Americans should receive recognition on the day as opposed to 15th century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. In June, the Cambridge City Council voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The UC’s Rules Committee will write an open letter to University President Drew G. Faust, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, and Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 expressing the UC’s endorsement.
“It is important to students on this campus, and the UC can provide additional assistance,” UC Rules Committee Chair Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18 said.
Although the Council overwhelmingly agreed on the policy, several representatives argued that a shift from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day was not enough to fully promote the representation of Native Americans on campus. Clark agreed, but said recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day would at least be a step forward.
“People may view it as a band-aid solution, but I view it as a beginning,” Clark said.
UC Education Committee Chair Scott Ely ’18 said he also wanted to push for more Native American faculty members on campus.
“We are going to work on our end to make this happen,” Ely said.
“Thank you from the heart,” Clark said to the Council after the vote, which he attended. “Happy Indigenous People’s Day.”
Native Americans at Harvard College held events Monday to promote recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and circulated a petition that has received more than 100 signatures, according to Clark.
During the UC’s Monday meeting, the Council passed legislation sponsored by UC Student Life Committee Chair Berkeley Brown ’18 to allocate $1,466 to fund shuttles to the airport for Thanksgiving Break, as the Council has done for the past several years.
UC Finance Committee Chair William A. Greenlaw ’17 also announced several new initiatives in his committee. Beginning with last week’s requests for UC funding, student organizations who request $200 or less for food or publicity may be eligible for the committee’s “Small Grants Initiative” which expedites the grant approval process by not requiring an interview to receive a grant.
Greenlaw also announced upcoming plans to expand sexual assault prevention training to groups that receive funds from the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations. The committee will also begin reviewing how accurately student organizations predict, in their grant applications, the number of people who will attend their events.
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