Today at noon, over 200 demonstrators gathered on the Main Green to stand in solidarity with indigenous people and urge the administration to officially change the name of Fall Weekend to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Native American students, faculty, and community members wore their people’s traditional regalia and others attending in solidarity wore red and black to commemorate the day.
The event began with members of Native Americans at Brown (NAB) introducing themselves, speaking in their respective indigenous languages and English, and welcoming the protestors. The organizers of the demonstration, Sierra Edd ’18, Kara Roanhorse ’18 and Phoebe Young ’17, spoke about the purpose of the event and of NAB. Young said Native Americans at Brown exists “first and foremost to provide support for Native students on campus.” The demonstration also included calls to sign a petition asking the administration to rename Fall Weekend to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
Over the course of two hours, demonstrators gave speeches celebrating the resistance and resilience of indigenous people in America and discussing their hopes for the future. The leaders of the demonstration performed the Pequot Flag Song and led the crowd in a round dance before marching and chanting through campus to President Christina Paxson P’19’s house.
While the relevance and significance of this demonstration was felt strongly on campus due to the events of last week, the movement for Indigenous Peoples’ Day is occurring nationwide. Edd stated that Native Americans at Brown have been planning this event long before last week, and that she felt the need for more awareness and support from Brown as early as the first day of school. Their intention is that the university will dedicate space and institutional support to native and indigenous people at Brown. In Floripa Olguin ’16‘s words, this in part means “institutionalized recruitment,” particularly of the Wompanoag and Naragansett tribes, as Brown’s campus itself exists within their tribal lines.
NAB’s hope is that the Brown community can use this demonstration as an opportunity for change and historical accountability. Olguin encourages us, as academics, to take on the “learning that is needed for growth, even if it is very different than folks are used to.”