Big Green Gazette, Volume XXF, Issue II

Curated for you by the Sustainable Dartmouth Interns Sunday, October 19th, 2020

News  Indigenous Peoples Day and Month 2020

Professor Nick Reo shares a few thoughts about Indigenous health and wellness for Indigenous Peoples Day 2020. Professor Nick Reo teaches Environmental Studies and Native American Studies at Dartmouth. 

When Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, he catalyzed and directly participated in a chain of “pillaging, raping and generally setting in motion a genocide of the people who were already here. That's not something we want to celebrate. That's not something anyone wants to celebrate,” says Shannon Speed, citizen of the Chickasaw nation. Invoking Columbus Day ignores this history of white supremacy and colonial violence and produces ongoing harm, especially for Indigenous peoples. 

Part of the colonial project was a sweeping ecocide of what is today known as North America (Turtle Island). Indigenous scholars have long recognized that this ecocide, or the systematic destruction of land, water, and nonhuman nature, is inseparable from the genocide colonizers wrought on Native Americans–particularly because, as articulated by Kyle Whyte (Potawatomi), “the very thing that distinguishes Indigenous peoples from settler societies is their unbroken connection to ancestral homelands.” It’s important to note that colonial ecocide wasn’t a one-time event but rather continues producing environmental and climate injustices today. According to Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Colville Confederated Tribes), “the origin of environmental justice for Indigenous peoples is dispossession of land in all its forms; injustice is continually reproduced im what is inherently a culturally genocidal structure that systematically erases Indigenous peoples’ relationships and responsibilities to their ancestral places” (Gilio-Whitaker, 2019). Check out this infographic from Sunrise Movement for more on the linkages between colonialism and climate justice.

A celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day and Month starts with acknowledging this past, especially for those who are settler colonists on the land where they’re living. Consider using Whose Land or Native Land to learn more about the Indigenous people(s) of your home. Indigenous Peoples Day is also about spotlighting and supporting Indigenous resistance. All across the United States, Indigenous communities and organizations are leading the charge for rematriation, or the “reclaiming of ancestral remains, spirituality, culture, knowledge and resources” and returning them back to their traditional lands and communities. Others are gathering around the call land back, in reference to reparations for stolen land, the restoration of relationships of stewardship with the earth, and political sovereignty. 

What’s happening at Dartmouth? The Native American Program at Dartmouth has organized an amazing lineup of Indigenous Peoples Month events running until mid-November; for a full schedule, visit their website. Coming up soon are panels on indigenous knowledge on October 21, a conversation with Well for Culture on October 29, and a jewelry event with drag performer J Miko Thomas at the Hop. 

A note from NAD

Native Americans at Dartmouth’s mission is to support the wellbeing of Indigenous students on campus through a fostering of community. For many Native peoples, the second Monday of October has represented a painful reminder of harm committed against our communities and continued marginalization. Indigenous Peoples Day and month works to reclaim that history and center and celebrate the resiliency and vibrancy of our communities and cultures. As NAD, we aim for Indigenous People’s month to provide an opportunity to highlight the amazing individuals within our community and spark conversation for how non-Indigenous students can better support their presence at this school! All our programming is open to all of campus and we are always welcoming of anyone from any background coming in good faith. This year has obviously impacted our normal events in so many ways and one of those has unfortunately been limiting how we’ve been able to interact with the wonderful Abenaki community members who have built relationships with NAD. We encourage our members and all others to reflect upon them especially and consider the ways we can each honor their families as visitors here in the Upper Valley.

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