The Association of Big Ten Schools, a student government spanning 500,000 students at schools across the nation, lists as current priorities several resolutions to establish Indigenous People’s Day, a bias response team, as well as declare a climate emergency.
Sponsored by the University of Iowa’s student government, the resolution “in Support of the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day” proposes the second Monday of October be changed from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day at each of the Big Ten schools. ABTS cites the holiday as vital to the country and Native students.
“All Native students… merit their recognition: of their higher education accomplishments, of their existence as students, of their presence at predominantly white institutions, of their value as students, of their acknowledgment of being more than an asterisk,” the resolution says.
Columbus Day is a federally recognized holiday, and in the State of Iowa, the governor is expected to issue a proclamation each year recognizing the holiday. However, the University of Iowa, according to the resolution, does not officially recognize the holiday, “nor promote[s it] through social media or programming,” an action the University of Iowa student government calls “a complacent notion to the needs and support of Native students.”
“The utmost solidarity and support is fundamental for the success of Native American students,” the resolution claims.
Citing the increased impact on “people of color, immigrants, indigenous communities… as temperatures increase, oceans rise, and disasters worsen,” ABTS also passed a resolution declaring a climate emergency.
In another resolution authored by the University of Iowa student government, ABTS further targets “the United States Federal Government, and all governments and peoples worldwide, to initiate an immediate social and economic mobilization to reverse global warming and ecological overshoot.”
The resolution points to the needed urgency to address carbon emissions and a mass extinction which “could devastate much of life on Earth for the next 10 million years.”
The assembly targeted its respective student governments and universities. Focusing on their own internal sustainability, governments “commit to an internal set of sustainability goals which advocate for sustainable practices among members, as well as an executive sustainability position and a sustainability component into each B1G Undergraduate Student Government constitution and/or bylaws.”
With regard to the universities, the resolution calls on the administrations to set goals pertaining to sustainability and climate change action.
A third resolution passed by the ABTS supports bias incident reporting and response systems.
The intercampus student government desires a bias response system that potentially includes “a team of administrators, to address issues reported on campus in a sensitive and knowledgeable manner.”
These systems would provide an avenue to “address the issue of hate crimes on campus and awareness for those affected by these spiteful acts.”
Further legislation of the summer session includes advocating for Congress to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, to promote mental wellness, support the Equality Act, and offer college help to refugees.
“The TORCH Act will amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to ensure that refugees and asylees seeking higher education are provided in-state tuition rates,” that last resolution, sponsored by the Pennsylvania State University student government, states.
“The ABTS has previously demonstrated its support for undocumented and DACAmented students, as well its support for financial aid packages such as the Perkins Loan and the Federal Pell Grant to help alleviate the burden of student loans and the cost of tuition, through its drafting of supportive resolutions and subsequent advocacy efforts.”
Campus Reform reached out to the Assembly of Big Ten Students’ executive board members who declined comment. Campus Reform did not receive a statement from ABTS in time for publication.
Additionally, Campus Reform’s Celine Ryan notes that colleges and Universities across the country are scrapping Columbus Day in favor of “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” but what actually is involved in these celebrations?
Campus Reform took a look at how exactly these schools are changing the face of the holiday traditionally meant to honor explorer Christopher Columbus.
Kansas State University students are invited to an all-day lecture event called “Asserting Sovereignty: Innovations and Battlegrounds” where they will hear from various professors on topics relating to the rights and sovereignty of Native Americans. The university webpage advertising the event openly rejects Columbus Day with a title, reading, “
Columbus Day Indigenous Peoples Day 2019.”
In recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, USC just announced that it is planning a large scale conference for the next school year which will “challenge traditional views about the concept and definition of genocide.” The event, titled “Mass Violence and Its Lasting Impact on Indigenous Peoples – The Case of the Americas and Australia” will last three days and will include “musical and dance performances” in addition to lectures.
Tufts University Arts and Sciences and Engineering faculty passed a resolution in 2016 officially replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day for all Arts and Science and Engineering academic Calendars. A student coalition is continuing to push for the same change to be made campuswide, in an effort to force the university to “acknowledge the pain it has inflicted on Indigenous peoples who occupied this land for centuries.”
Harvard University’s events calendar recognizes Indigenous People’s Day with no mention of Columbus Day. Students are invited to a celebratory event during which they will listen to an “evocative playlist of contemporary poems by Native American authors.”
There is no mention of Columbus Day on the Northwestern University events calendar either. Students do have the option, however of attending an “Indigenous Tour of Northwestern” on that day, where they will learn about “Native people, places, and initiatives that connect to Northwestern University.”
The University of Oregon is hosting a three-hour event at a university amphitheater including a retiring and dedication ceremony of flags representing the nine federally recognized Native American tribes. The same event will include a separate ceremony for a “blessing” of the university’s “Kalapuya Ilihi” residence hall, which was named for the indigenous people of the area and has been open since 2017.
A strategically timed conference on the “climate crisis” begins Oct. 14 at Santa Clara University, the event, which features a lecture from Standing Rock Activist Chase Iron Eyes. The event is timed to begin on the holiday “in an effort to affirm indigenous sovereignty” and to “honor, affirm, support, listen and learn from Native Peoples.”
Oklahoma City University has a day of festivities planned, complete with a drum and dance performance and a panel discussion relating the native concept of “two-spirit” individuals who take on roles or identities of the opposite sex, to modern LGBTQ issues.
Washington State University will be setting up a full-size tipi display in addition to serving Native American food and hosting a group Rounddance for those looking to get festive in support of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Posters submitted by students at Idaho State University will be put on display to address the theme of “Indigenous Education: Acknowledging the past, looking to the future.” The poster display session will be followed by a number of other activities including a cultural drum performance. In a rare acknowledgment of Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day, the event will also feature a screening of Columbus in America, a film addressing the “controversy” surrounding the explorer. Films Media Group describes the film as one that “explores how the man who first brutalized indigenous people in the New World became a hero, and questions his place in American culture.”