On October 9, Sewanee celebrated its first Indigenous Peoples’ Day, as opposed to the more traditionally-recognized holiday of Christopher Columbus Day. Two years ago, President Biden was the first President to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, in hopes of honoring the indigenous victims of Christopher Columbus’s colonial efforts, which included mass genocide and enslavement of numerous Native American tribes. Although Christopher Columbus Day is still a federal holiday, Biden’s recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day has increased discussion about America’s colonial legacy and the harm it has caused marginalized communities since Europe first landed on American soil.
These discussions, by means of cultural activities and reflection, extended to Sewanee on October 9. Students celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day through the three activities provided by a collaborative effort between the School of Theology and the University.
In the morning at 6:45 a.m., there was an opportunity for students to attend a sunrise service at Angel Park, complete with indigenous music and prayer. Shuttles departed from McClurg and the Kentucky Parking Lot at 6:30 a.m. Additionally, on the Quad from noon to 2 p.m., Objiwa drummers played at labyrinth exhibits and walking meditations. In these labyrinths, students were given time to simply explore this walk, as they reflected upon the past and the indigenous communities that have been silenced in the effort to construct our America as we know it. Finally, there was a Reflective Remembrance on the Trail of Tears at 6:30 p.m. on the Mountain Goat Trail.
Hopefully, this is not the end of Sewanee’s efforts to recognize its past. As Sewanee continues to impress upon its students the importance of Sewanee’s Land Acknowledgement, one can only hope that, through studying our history, we can hone our strategies to create more hopeful and equitable futures.
Sewanee’s Land Acknowledgment is listed below:
“The University of the South is situated on land sacred to numerous Indigenous tribes. As part of its commitment to Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation, the University, through its Indigenous Engagement Initiative, is reaching out to tribal representatives to build a mutually respectful and sustainable community. Initial efforts have underscored the importance of deep listening and deference to tribes through a mindful and holistic process of exploring shared history and discovering common goals, including how tribes would prefer to be acknowledged. It is the University’s goal that specific acknowledgment, in whatever form it takes, will ultimately comprise only a small part of a healing and shared future.”