For high school students, it's a day to
sleep in. For some Americans, it means a parade. But for American
Indians, many of which surround the Syracuse University Hill, Columbus
Day is a time to mourn their losses.
Outside Grant Auditorium Monday night,
about 60 observers attending a lecture put on by the Native American
Students Association and U. Encounter were greeted by festive American
Indian decorations. However, pumpkins and dried corn cobs, draped
fabrics in shades of yellow and maroon and American Indian jewelry
and sculpture vendors prefaced a much darker lecture topic.
The symposium, titled "What Columbus
Day Really Means to Indigenous People," featured three American
Indian scholars, SU writing professor Scott Lyons, Buffalo State
College professor Lori Quigley and Colgate University professor
Michael Taylor, who spoke of the hardships that have come upon their
cultures since the onset of colonialism.
"Columbus is a symbol," said
Lyons, a member of the Ojibwe tribe. "He is a symbol of the
possession of our land and our rights. But most of all, he symbolizes
the fact that the destruction of our people didn't have to end the
way it did."
Lyons discussed the inappropriateness
of Columbus Day as a holiday. Many American Indians feel to celebrate
the day when one culture uprooted another is disgraceful. These
people believe this ostracism of American Indian culture has disenfranchised
members of their race, he said.
As a result, some American Indians, such
as Seneca tribe member Quigley, feel Columbus Day should be renamed
'Indigenous People Day.' In Berkeley, Calif., this is already the
case and the new name serves to raise awareness about Native American
Quigley also directed her ideas to education
students. As vice chairwoman of the National Indian Education Association,
a presidential-appointed position, she talked about the need for
American Indian awareness in the classroom.
"It cannot be expected that every
teacher have a complete understanding of every culture, but teachers
should be taking at least one course during college on indigenous
history," Quigley said.
Citing her own poor experiences with her
son's elementary school's treatment of Columbus Day, Quigley said
teachers need to "teach in a culturally responsive manner."
"I'm surprised this isn't a bigger
issue," said Meghan Tertocha, an undecided freshman in the
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. "Our nation
is still in the process of colonization. We are still driving Indian
tribes out of their homelands."
The protesting of a national Columbus
Day is important to the American Indian people and should have its
place on SU's campus as well, said panel speakers. Following the
lecture series Monday evening, students, faculty and city residents,
many of whom were American Indian, joined in a moment of silence
for the cultures that were uprooted by colonialism at a candlelight
Professor of law Robert Odawi and a Seneca
tribe member spoke to the future of the current holiday with regard
to its state of existence.
"Only when there are no more Indians
will Columbus Day be necessary," he said.