Indigenous People’s Day 2019: What We Can Do Moving Forward

Jacqueline Loh ’22
Staff Writer
Volume XXIX, Issue 3
October 30, 2019

From the colonial Spanish architecture of Scripps to the wrought iron gates of Pomona, European influences and histories dominate our campuses. Walking through the 5Cs, it’s not evident that our colleges are installed on native Tongva land. Last week’s Indigenous People’s Day offers an important and ongoing reminder to reflect on our own roles in settler colonialism and the ways we can better support indigenous communities.

Indigenous People’s Day began as a countermovement to the celebration of Columbus Day. The push for the holiday began in 1989 in South Dakota and eventually spread to Berkeley and Santa Cruz in California. Today, it is celebrated across ten states and over one hundred cities. Hawaii, Oregon and South Dakota have stopped recognizing Columbus Day in an effort to raise further awareness about America’s history of violent colonization.

Despite the growing popularity of the Indigenous People’s Day movement, there is still much to be done to support indigenous
communities. One way Claremont students can support indigenous peoples is by learning about the history of the land itself.

“The very first, easiest step, is knowing who’s land you’re on and working with them to find out what else you can do,” Carolann Jane Duro ’20 said. “It’s also important to remember that not all Indigenous peoples are a monolith, though we share similar stories and histories, we have unique goals and efforts and traditions.These universities are settled on Native land. Finding out whose land you are on, learning about their history, seeing what activities, issues, efforts they are leading now and supporting them… is all more than possible for any person, not just college students.”

Throughout the school year, there are many events and resources that discuss Native history, land and activism. For example, the Tongva Living History Garden has plants that are representative of different time periods of Tongva history. The garden itself is a community effort, built by Claremont Colleges volunteers and the Pitzer Native Youth pipeline program.The Grandmother Garden at Pomona College was also created by Tongva Elder Barbara Drake to host different workshops about native cooking and medicine.

Non-native students can also support by learning and speaking up more on Indigenous topics in academic spaces. Rather than conceptualizing indigenous people as a community of the past, as static and part of history, recognize that they are an active part of our campus life and deserve visibility and recognition. It’s also important that students utilize whatever privilege they have to put Indigenous students at the center of any conversation regarding on-campus activism.

The 5C Indigenous Peer Mentorship Program is an active club on campus that connects and supports Indigenous students on campus. Spearheaded by three head mentors, including Duro, this mentorship program provides support and organizes events centering indigenous students. They plan a variety of events such as study sessions, mental health support groups and movie nights. Along with recreational events, the program has a strong political presence on campus.

“We are really a resource for all Indigenous students to meet and grow great relationships with other Indigenous students on campus,” Duro said.

Lastly, students can support indigenous business, artists or non-profits. Duro themself is an artist who created stickers related to their Californian Indian identity. One sticker they made depicts Lady Moon, who teaches girls in the tribe to prepare for womanhood.

“I connected this story to the prevalent issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, girls, and people (#MMIW),” Duro said. “I wanted to make a sticker about Lady Moon that could be sold to raise funds for an organization making a difference in this movement.”

The Urban Indian Health Institute studies and creates reports that highlight and document the issue of missing or murdered indigenous women. They also document and raise awareness of health disparities and medical inequities impacting indigenous communities.

Despite the hundred of years of hardship for the indigenous community, Duro says this resiliency is a source of pride. “I am learning to speak my language, when there are only two Native speakers left,” Duro said. “And the thing that motivates me the most is the resilience of how long it has survived… and we’ve managed to survive all of this while maintaining tribal unity.

“Čahuun houpk: one heart, one mind, one soul.”