On the afternoon of February 2, the faculty voted to change the name of the Monday of Fall Weekend to Indigenous People’s Day.
This vote came after months of controversy surrounding op-ed publications by the Brown Daily Herald. Resistance to these publications culminated in a die-in protest on the Main Green organized by Native Americans at Brown (NAB) in October of last semester. However, Floripa Olguin ’16, one of the coordinators of the die-in protest and a member of NAB was quick to point out that this vote was about far more than the Herald publications.
“The significance of a name speaks to the historical legacy of Brown,” she said. “Centering the dialogue on Indigenous People’s Day speaks to Brown’s ability to learn from the past and move into the future. A lot of people have criticized us by saying that we are trying to erase history, but I think we are trying to broaden [the campus’] view of that time in history.”
Members of NAB stood outside Salomon holding signs before, during and after the vote was announced. They moved inside Salomon as the proposal, the fourteenth on the docket for the FEC, was being decided.
“I’m feeling very emotional, very happy that it’s passed,” Olguin said. “Reflecting on how much work we put in fall semester and how much work was done in 2009, I’m just really grateful to be here and see this pass.”
Sierra Edd ’18, a Native American Heritage Series Programmer and an organizer of fall semester’s die-in, thanked other student groups for their support throughout this campaign.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without all the support from other student groups on campus, so I really appreciate all the work that was done this year,” she said.
But this is far from an end point for indigenous activism on campus. Edd expressed desire to use this momentum to “institutionalize support for indigenous people” on Brown’s campus. Such proposals include increasing indigenous faculty, further developing Native and Indigenous Studies at Brown and providing more funding to indigenous student groups.
“This is just a starting point,” Edd said. “Not just for native people but for all people of color at the University.”
Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) voted to change the name of the Monday of Fall Weekend to Indigenous People’s Day. In actuality, the entire faculty present at Tuesday’s meeting conducted this vote. All modifications to the University’s academic calendar must be approved by the faculty, although the issue can be brought forth by the FEC, which serves as “central steering committee for Faculty business.”