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Indigenous Peoples’ Day honored at Ohio State

The day promotes the visibility of Native peoples

A conversation and a history lesson are some of the ways The Ohio State University is recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday, Oct. 12.

The holiday is celebrated on the second Monday of October in the United States in place of, or along with, Columbus Day, depending on the state or municipality. The observance is a way to honor the past, present and future of Native peoples throughout the country and acknowledges the negative impact of colonialism on Indigenous communities.

“I think it’s a really important moment for us to reconsider the narrative that has been taught in many public schools and across the U.S. – this idea of Christopher Columbus discovering America when the fact is that he didn’t really discover anything because there were hundreds and hundreds of Native nations that were already here,” said Melissa Beard Jacob, intercultural specialist for Native American and Indigenous students.

The day also promotes the visibility of Native peoples rather than treating their communities as a curiosity or a vanishing culture. It connects Indigenous peoples in the U.S. to other Native peoples around the world. 

“I think it’s also nice to recognize the Native students on campus. It’s a great time to give them some visibility and give them a chance to really represent their community – their stories, their histories and to kind of give them the spotlight,” Jacob said.

Berkeley, California, was the first city in the U.S. to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992. Currently in Ohio, Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland also recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Jacob will join Daniel Rivers, associate professor in the Department of History, on Monday for a virtual conversation about Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Jacob is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Rivers is a citizen of the Choctaw nation of Oklahoma and is Chickasaw by descendance. 

“I think it will be great because both of us come to Ohio State as Indigenous people and we’ll be bringing our perspective. I think Daniel is going to bring some really great historical knowledge to the conversation,” Jacob said. “For me, it’s really important to highlight some of the student activism that’s happening on campus and to provide ways for folks to support Native students, for those wanting to get involved and support the community.”

The Student Life Multicultural Center is one place to find opportunities to connect with the Ohio State Native and Indigenous community. Ohio State’s American Indian Studies program also plays a vital role through scholarship and collaborative engagement with the Newark Earthworks Center in Newark. The center contains the largest contiguous earthworks of the Hopewell peoples.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day also offers an opportunity to reflect on the historical foundation of the university. Ohio State occupies the ancestral and contemporary lands of the Shawnee, Potawatomi, Delaware, Miami, Peoria, Seneca, Wyandotte, Ojibwe and Cherokee peoples.

“I think it’s important that we acknowledge it since we’re a land-grant institution, and the fact that a lot of folks don’t realize that land-grant universities came from the displacement of Native tribes,” Jacob said. “So, I think it’s really important for the university, just to acknowledge that history. Obviously, Ohio State and education is a wonderful thing, but [we should] just recognize the detriment that played in terms of taking land from Native nations.”

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