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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Indigenous Peoples Day to celebrate Tucson’s Native American community

The UA is gearing up for its upcoming Indigenous Peoples Day celebration to be held on Oct. 12 and 13. The university is partnering with many individuals and organizations around Tucson who are hosting events throughout the two days.

Indigenous Peoples Day, which has recently been officially recognized by South Tucson, coincides with Columbus Day. Gabriela Maya Bernadett, a Native American and administrative associate at the UA Office of Tribal Relations, is responsible for organizing and leading the celebration at the UA.

According to Bernadett, the purpose of Indigenous Peoples Day is to be “a counter narrative to Columbus Day,” and “to recognize the strength and resilience of indigenous peoples in the face of colonization and imperialism.”

“So far, the response has been great,” Bernadett said. “We haven’t really had any opposition, not yet. Hopefully that keeps up.”

Opposition, Bernadett said, would consist of more conservative-leaning groups taking issue with the idea of a counter-celebration to that of Christopher Columbus. The celebration at the UA will focus on the resilience of indigenous and the preservations of their cultures.

The day was conceived at the University of California, Berkeley, which was the first place to officially recognize it as a counter-celebration on Columbus Day. From there, it gradually became recognized by other cities like San Diego and Denver, where it was celebrated more as a protest against Columbus Day.

Columbus Day is recognized as a federal holiday in the U.S., but is not observed as a state holiday by some states, according to The Week Magazine.

According to Pam Balogh, a Ph.D. student in Native American studies at the UA, protesting against Columbus Day is not the intention of this particular celebration.

“It’s more a reclaiming, not animosity,” Balogh said. “Columbus was this crown explorer to many people, and that’s fine, but it’s not fair to have just one narrative about this continent.”

Balogh said she hopes to see the day officially recognized by all of Tucson in the upcoming years and eventually the entirety of the U.S.

“I grew up in Payson [Ariz.] and a lot of Native Americans went to my school,” said Danny Kitts, a physiology senior at the UA. “They stick together and trust each other and I can totally see how it’s helped keep their culture alive.”

Kitts said he would like to attend the events, though he previously didn’t know the day even existed, as is the case with other students around campus. Bernadett said she is hoping to change that this year by bringing awareness, appreciation and the celebration of indigenous people and their resilience to the UA.

Events begin on the morning of Monday, Oct. 12, with a breakfast hosted by the Native American Research and Training Center at 8 a.m.

At noon, students can catch performances by the Black Mountain Drum Group from the Tohono O’odham Nation, an Exhibition Jingle Dress Dance by Nyona Smith and a Northern Traditional Dance by Rayland Smith, also from Tohono O’odham. The Native American Law Student Association potluck at the College of Law courtyard will also be at noon.

There will be a discussion with Indigenous Alliance Without Borders at 5:30 p.m., hosted by the Adalberto and Ana Guerrero Center Student Lounge.

There will be a presentation by Michael Hawes, executive director of the Fulbright Foundation-Canada, in room 332A of the Harvill building, on Oct. 13, at 5:30 p.m.

“I’m glad [Native Americans] have a day of their own, like their own day to celebrate,” Kitts said.

Follow Andy Alvarado on Twitter.

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