Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Indigenous People’s Day sparks discussion

South Dakota was the first state to change Columbus Day to Indigeous People’s Day in the 1990s. This convsersation has continued to day, even at Augustana.

“We live on land that once belonged to the busiest American Indian community on the continent,” Dr. David Crowe, the professor who launched Augustana’s first American Indian Literature course, said. “It was called Saukenuk, and it occupied present-day West Rock Island, from downtown to Black Hawk State Park site. The warrior, Black Hawk, who once battled a young Army officer named Abraham Lincoln, lived just down the hill from the current site of Rock Island High School. The native ‘environment’ has been all but destroyed, of course, but the memory of this Sauk community should be alive to us.”

“Indigenous people around the world were often manipulated, exploited, abused and sometimes erased, bodily and in the collective memory,” Crowe said. “If we hope to avoid these sins in the future, we’d better understand the sometimes hopeful and sometimes horrifying history of European and Indigenous American contact.”

The Multicultural Programming Board (MPB) of the Office of Student Life (OSL) hosted an event that is part of their honest conversations series about Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 16.

The event was meant to create an open dialogue about student’s thoughts on Native Americans. The hosts, Caleb Minnis and Alejandra Ochoa, gave insights on some of the things that have been done to erase Indigenous culture. They talked about the Indian reservation system that was created to keep Native Americans off of lands that European Americans wanted to settle and to educate them and make them more ‘American.’

MPB asked students about what they had learned in schools about the Native Americans. Most said they were only mentioned when they were taught about conflicts between the British immigrants and the natives due to land and power.

“I would agree with replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day because indigenous people were first living in the Americas. Europeans abused them and took their lands,” Sophomore Rodrigo Ayala from El Salvador said. “If you want to honor Indigenous people, then you could change the day.”

“It’s something that, for me, because I’m not a native person, wouldn’t matter very much,” Sophomore Jack Currie said. “If it makes people feel better about themselves and Indigenous people feel better, then I’m all for it.”

“I think it’s a good moment to redirect attention from European heritage, which by the way I find beautiful and heartening at least in part, to a North American heritage that included and includes today the ideas and beliefs and habits and rituals and arts of the ancient American Indian cultures,” Crowe said. “I also see no reason to honor Columbus today in any special way.”

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Indigenous People’s Day sparks discussion