by Whalesong Staff
Indigenous Peoples Day is Monday, Oct. 10. All three UAS campuses will observe the day with multiple events on the theme “Has Du Ítx̱ Yaa Ntoo.át Haa Shuká Aa Hás — ‘Our Journey Forward.’”
Juneau activities begin at 3 p.m. with a panel on revitalizing Indigenous languages, followed by a film on the history and future of Indigenous programs, and a podcast with UAS Professor Emerita Ernestine Hayes: “An Alaska Native Memoir: Our Lives are Stories Telling Themselves.” Access Juneau campus programs on Zoom.
UAS Sitka campus activities begin at 5 p.m. and include a conversation at 6 p.m. with Rep. Mary Peltola, the first Alaska Native to be elected to Congress. Alaskans elected Peltola in August to fill the remainder of Rep. Don Young’s term, who died in March. She is also running for the seat in the November general election.
The Ketchikan campus activities begin at 11 a.m. in the library and include a poster session with students from Ketchikan Indian Community’s Tribal Scholars Program.
Sitka’s Indigenous Peoples Day events are in person and on Zoom.
Always the second Monday of October, Indigenous Peoples Day honors the histories and cultures of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, but it was not formally recognized as a national holiday until last year. In October 2021 and earlier this month, President Joe Biden signed presidential proclamations establishing the day.
Indigenous Peoples Day is an alternative to Columbus Day, established by 1934 congressional resolution and first recognized in 1892 — motivated by violence against Italians in the U.S. The 1934 resolution requested the president issue a Columbus Day proclamation each year, and the same day Biden proclaimed Indigenous Peoples Day, he also signed a Columbus Day proclamation, citing that resolution.
An article from the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institute puts it this way: “Columbus was not the first foreign explorer to land in the Americas. Neither he nor those that came before him discovered America—because Indigenous Peoples have populated the Western Hemisphere for tens of thousands of years. European contact resulted in devastating loss of life, disruption of tradition, and enormous loss of lands for Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. It is estimated that in the 130 years following first contact, Native America lost 95 percent of its population.”
The 2022-2023 UAS Academic Catalog states, “We recognize the series of unjust actions that attempted to remove them from their land, which includes forced relocations and the burning of villages. We honor the relationships that exist between Lingít, X̱aadas, and Ts’msyen peoples, and their sovereign relationships to their lands, their languages, their ancestors, and future generations. We aspire to work toward healing and liberation, recognizing our paths are intertwined in the complex histories of colonization in Alaska.”
About 20% of the UAS student body is Alaska Native, according to Fall 2022 data from the UAS Institutional Effectiveness Office. Our communities and campuses are on the homelands of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people.
In a news release about the day, Chancellor Karen Carey said, “The Indigenous peoples of Alaska are recognized not only on this day but throughout the year at all three of our UAS campuses. We learn from our Alaska Native friends and colleagues, and we cherish being on their beautiful land and the diversity across our campuses. I hope that everyone will join us as we celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.”