Indigenous Peoples’ Day was celebrated for the second year at Cal Poly and was formally recognized in replacement of Columbus Day by the City of San Luis Obispo on Monday, Oct. 8.
An event was held at the new yakʔitʸutʸu Residential Community Amphitheater Oct. 8 at 4 p.m. in acknowledgment of the first people who occupied Cal Poly’s land.
The event was organized by the American Indian Students Association (AISA) and the Movimento Estudiantil Xicano de Aztlan (MEXA) with the support of the Cross Cultural Centers (CCC) and University Housing.
“It’s an important event to have on campus because it’s time to tell the people you see every day on and off campus who identify as Indigenous people that you acknowledge them, you see them, you respect their experiences and who they are,” CCC Director Bryan Hubain said.
Speakers ranging from students and faculty to Northern Chumash tribe members spoke. Tamales were served to attendees.
“Sometimes we think Cal Poly owns deeds to these lands and therefore they own the land, but that is very much a colonial mentality,” event organizer and ethnic studies professor Jenell Navarro said. “My hope for this day is that it might be able to help dissolve that thinking and help educate us to a greater degree about whose lands we are actually on.”
During the event, Navarro spoke of the importance of dismantling the narrative about Christopher Columbus taught to students from a young age. She also spoke of taking back the day as a means of honoring the tribes who populated the land, rather than the individual who violently took it from them.
“Columbus Day fails to acknowledge native people and the tragedies they went through. Today we reclaim this day and give our honors to Indigenous people,” CCC Coordinator Lilianne Tang said.
Last year ASI collaborated with MEXA and AISA to host the first ever Indigenous People’s Day event at Cal Poly. The ASI Board then passed a resolution in April to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day.
after an Associated Students, Inc. Board of Directors’ vote to do so. However, Navarro said archives show that the day has been celebrated by students for at least 35 years.
“We are on land where blood was spilled and we have to respect that. We have to honor that,” Hubain said.
To kick off the day, Mayor Heidi Harmon hosted a 6:45 a.m. sunrise gathering at Laguna Lake Park. Approximately 60 people gathered and spoke about why they were there, sharing history and chants.