Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Friedman

by Rebecca Harnik

This fall at Friedman, the Columbus Day Holiday will officially be renamed to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Though many students in the United States have historically celebrated Columbus Day to commemorate the discovery of the Americas, the name change recognizes that colonization went hand in hand with violence and genocide. The Friedman School’s adoption of Indigenous Peoples’ Day takes a stand against centuries of oppression, racism, and discrimination faced by Indigenous People.

Friedman is just the second school at Tufts University to make this switch, following the lead of the Tufts School of Arts and Sciences and Engineering (AS&E), where the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate championed the effort.

After the resolution was rejected by AS&E faculty in 2015, the TCU Senate launched an extensive campaign of petitioning, Facebook outreach, photo booths, hashtagging #‎IPDatTufts, letter-writing, and the promotion of a heartfelt YouTube video to spread the message of the holiday’s significance. The AS&E student body and faculty were won over in 2016 by the students’ dedication and organizing work, and voted in favor of establishing Indigenous Peoples’ Day with a 60 to 1 faculty vote on the resolution.

Undergraduate TCU Senate representative Anna Del Castillo ’18 was among the leadership for the campaign at AS&E. She emphasized the importance of the new name in an email conversation, calling the day “a time to celebrate indigenous voices and educate the community on important issues facing indigenous people [globally]… and to examine how we can play a role in reversing negative actions.”

Holidays honoring Indigenous Peoples have been celebrated sporadically by cities and states across the US for several decades, but 2014 and 2015 saw a sudden surge of cities and states dismissing Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Several colleges and universities have recently made the transition nationally; in almost every case championed by their respective student bodies. Regionally, Brown University formally adopted Indigenous People’s Day in February of 2016.

Here at Friedman, the administration has been highly supportive of the change. The Friedman Justice League is working with Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Matt Hast to make the transition clear and understandable. Friedman will be formally announcing the new holiday and its significance this fall, and will be joining forces with AS&E on the Tufts campus to celebrate the holiday on October 10, 2016.

At Tufts, the change has not yet been initiated on the full campus. Del Castillo of the TCU explained that President Monaco has stated that individual schools will need to consider the switch on their own until there is enough support to demonstrate that a Tufts-wide change is merited. The Friedman Justice League is currently in conversation with other schools on the Boston campus and is hopeful that Friedman’s early adoption of the holiday will support other schools to do so – and that this will help Tufts join soon as a whole University.

To follow the progress and celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Tufts, you can connect on Facebook; or email Benya Kraus, Diversity and Community Affairs Officer at the TCU Senate, at Benya.kraus@tufts.edu. On the Boston campus, the Friedman Justice league will be leading engagement efforts: FriedmanJusticeLeague@gmail.com

Rebecca Harnik is a second-year student in the Agriculture, Food and Environment program. She is concerned with issues of social equity, community health, and ecological sustainability in the food system. 

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