Editorials

Editorial: Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day

By
Monday, February 8, 2016

We commend the University for its decision to rename Fall Weekend Indigenous People’s Day. More importantly, we applaud the members of Native Americans at Brown for their hard work and tireless activism, through which they have not only brought positive change to Brown but have also set a powerful example for the rest of the student body of how to be effective activists.

The name change needed to happen. Protests earlier this year made it clear that Brown has much room for improvement in its recognition and accommodation of Native American histories and students. Though renaming what was formerly Columbus Day Fall Weekend in 2009 was supposed to make the fall break neutral in order to avoid offending Italian-Americans, members of NAB found this still diminished the acts of genocide committed by Columbus. Despite the neutral name, the break from school still coincided with the national Columbus Day and therefore still effectively celebrated him.

Several critics of the name change, such as David Josephson, a professor of music, argue that it is “unreasonable” to have a day that recognizes Native Americans when we do not have a similar day for “other groups,” such as Asian American and Jewish students. But as Provost Richard Locke P’17 pointed out, recognizing one ethnic group of students does not prevent us from recognizing others. It is especially important to have a day recognizing Native Americans around the time when much of the country is celebrating Columbus, which reminds Native American students of the atrocities committed against their peoples. Hopefully, having a day to recognize indigenous people will help students of indigenous backgrounds feel celebrated in what might otherwise be a difficult time.

Moreover, it is important to have this specific day because it is something that the NAB has been explicitly fighting for. The renaming of the holiday is encouraging for all student activists because it shows that hard work can effect real change. NAB has been requesting the name change since 2009, when the holiday was still named Columbus Day. When they were met with a partial victory, and the school agreed to change the name of the break to the neutral Fall Weekend, they did not give up. Last semester during Fall Weekend, members of NAB held demonstrations on the Main Green and wrote a guest column in support of the name change. They drafted a resolution, brought it before BUCC and demonstrated until the news of the name change was announced. It took a while, but Brown has finally heard them.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Emma Axelrod ’18 and Emma Jerzyk ’17, and its members, Eben Blake ’17, Aranshi Kumar ’17 and Leeron Lempel ’19. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.