City of Ashland Celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day

A performer playing an original song during the Indigenous Peoples' Day Celebration at SOU. (KTVL/Alexander Mesadieu)

Dozens sang, ate, and told stories at Southern Oregon University (SOU) to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Indigenous Peoples' Day is a holiday that goes back to at least the 70's. It's a day to celebrate and remember the histories of Indigenous People of North America.

Last year, a White Mountain Apache student petitioned to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day in lieu of Columbus Day at SOU, on August 1st 2017, the Ashland City Council unanimously voted to approve a resolution to recognize the holiday.

People at the celebration said they want to share their culture, and hope people will study the history of the indigenous people in the places that they live.

"Take the time to know what indigenous people lived where you are, and what happened to those communities. Because often times you will find... they still exist," said Brook Colley, Native American Studies professor.

Colley says that some Native Americans view the celebration of Columbus Day as a a day that glorifies genocide. She told us that she understands why the day was celebrated, and that Indigenous Peoples' Day is in no way trying to erase history.

"Indigenous people, Native Americans, have had their history erased or obscured from view, or even told falsely for a very long time, so if there's an issue with erasing the past we've fallen victim to that for many many hundreds of years," Brook Colley said. "The other thing is that we have to understand where Christopher Columbus as a national holiday came from in the first place. Italian Americans were living in the US and they were experiencing incredible marginalization and oppression and racism and violence. One idea was let's find an Italian American hero that can be described as part of making of this US nation state, as fundamental to the very foundation to the United States. So there were Italian American activists who said, 'hey look, we're important, we matter, we want to be seen an be treated with equity and equality.' I think we can care about that, we should appreciate that concern, and there are many, many individuals that we might raise up and learn to celebrate that better speak to the incredible contributions of Italian American citizens," Colley said.

The Indigenous Peoples' Day celebration ended with an OSF performance of the play 'Off The Rails' at 8:00 p.m.

Colley says that SOU will celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day annually from this year on.

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