Monday, December 5, 2022

Remembering Indigenous history

By Bryn Fawn

Last weekend, many Plattsburgh students eagerly migrated home for the long awaited Indigenous Peoples’ break. Many teachers canceled classes on Friday as well, permitting students to extend their break. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter were filled with posts of students’ time away and their fun activities. But, how does this relate to Indigenous people of the Americas at all? 

The break took place, officially, from Oct. 8 to Oct. 11. Before the break, there was no email sent about the holiday. No message from President Enyedi and nothing in the student digest. The closest was a schedule for the food venues on campus during break, most being closed aside from Clinton Dining Hall. 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day was originally denominated as Columbus Day, sharing the history of how the Americas were “discovered.” History has been twisted over the years, clouding the truth. In actuality, it was more likely vikings who originally “discovered” the Americas, but even then there were still Indigenous people. There is still discussion and theorizing on how those indigenous people and their ancestors originally arrived to the Americas. 

Gary Chambers, a Democrat running for United States’ Senate in the state of Louisiana, released a TikTok over the holiday weekend titled “History Repeats Itself.” The TikTok has a Black child sharing how Christopher Columbus is his hero, and then goes on to share facts like how Columbus killed thousands with disease and stole land from its people. The TikTok, while blunt in its message, has a lot of visual irony. A white teacher encourages the student, while the child himself is a minority well-known to have suffered at the hands of white people. 

Chambers gives a small monologue at the end, stressing how children need to be taught the truth or we run the risk of repeating history, creating more tragedies. There is comfort in naivety, but there is strength in truth.

SUNY Plattsburgh did spread awareness for Black Solidarity Day. However, posters were hung in the Angell College Center and many billboards along campus. A student digest was released Oct. 5 that gave information on the event. It is the first of a hopefully yearly event, occurring on the first Monday in November. 

“This is a day to meditate on the meaning of social justice and civic engagement in what could be a multi-racial democracy.” was mentioned in the section of the student digest.

While there was no discussion for Indigenous people in America, it is not a competition to compare oppression for these minorities. It is great that campus is moving in this progressive direction and giving space for discussions such as these each year.

With a major highlight on Black students, it leads some to question the attitude toward other minorities and how their events, good and bad, are swept under the rug. Of course campus has organizations such as Title IX for bigoted actions, but it is rather ridiculous to require an act of hate to start a discussion. 

The break, of course, should have been relaxing and joyful, but as Chambers made evident: history will repeat itself if we allow it to. We cannot turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of the past, and allow space and create one if we must for discussion. Give the microphone to these affected minorities, allow them to share their thoughts.

Bureau of Indian Affairs stated on their page regarding the murders and disappearances of Indigneous people: “Statistics show us that approximately 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing persons have been entered into the National Crime Information Center throughout the U.S. and approximately 2,700 cases of Murder and Nonnegligent Homicide Offenses have been reported to the Federal Government’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. In total, there are approximately 4,200 missing and murdered cases that have gone unsolved.”

Four thousand two hundred voices left silenced, and many more to be discovered. Disappearances are a shockingly scary common occurrence, with police left twiddling their thumbs and leaving these cases to fall cold. Women are the common demographic targeted as well. 

Next Indigenous Peoples’ Day, it would be wise to take time to remember why it ever became a holiday in the first place, and who it is truly meant to celebrate. Spend time with family, enjoy a break from studies and exams but don’t forget where this nation started, who’s home this continent used to be and what we can do to make the world better day by day. 

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