Every week, both domestic and international students are invited to gather at the Office of International Affairs, in the Enarson Classroom building, to participate in conversations with varied themes. On October 15th, the topic of discussion was Indigenous People’s day. Although our country only recognizes the national holiday of Columbus Day, many states are beginning to recognize the holiday as Indigenous People’s Day instead. Through this campus-wide event, we learned more than what the textbooks taught us. We learned about the history behind Columbus Day, as well as how a multitude of cultures were impacted and oppressed due to the representation of their people. We learned how these people began to stand up for what they believe in by fighting for their rights and recognition once again.
Global Engagement Night began by doing a quick ice breaker and munching on some snacks. Following, we began our discussion along with a guided powerpoint. We were asked to reflect on our educational systems and our knowledge of Columbus Day. After a quick discussion, we were made aware of how poorly the books recorded what truly happened when the America’s were colonized by Christopher Columbus. When our ancestors landed in this “new” world that was thought to be “uncolonized,” they introduced a number of diseases into the native people’s communities. In addition, they were viewed not as people, but rather as inferiors. Our ancestors treated them with violence and as our inferiors; they quickly became slaves. All of these horrible recollections came as a shock to me. My knowledge of Columbus day prior to last week was pride and hope in finding a new land. I knew that the indigenous and our ancestors did not always get along, but I never realized the reasons why. Our ancestors were taking away their cultures with each step into the “new” world. My minimal knowledge of Columbus Day is not uncommon; in fact, it is the way the date is recorded in the history books that we are taught from. Columbus Day was initially introduced into our culture by the previously oppressed Italian-American communities. They took pride into their history and relation to Christopher Columbus. Although not intended, this pride even further oppressed the Indigenous population. In more recent years, the remaining indigenous groups are fighting for the recognition of their ancestors through replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. Many states have began to recognize this holiday rather than Columbus Day.
I believe this event is especially important to International Affairs because of the lack of education and misguided learning that has been misrepresenting and oppressing a multitude of cultures, all around the world. Overall, I gained a lot from this event. I learned a lot about the Indigenous population that I had never known before, and I have a new found respect for their culture. I think this was overall a great event to increase awareness of this issue in today’s world, and overall aligns with not only the values of Honors & Scholars, but the university as a whole.