The Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs conducted an Indigenous Peoples’ Day Proclamation presentation Monday at the Sample Gates. Students, faculty and community members gathered to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Nicky Belle, First Nations Educational and Cultural Center director, began the presentation by discussing the history of the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center. The organization first opened in Eigenmann Hall in 2007, before moving to Weatherly Hall in 2008. In 2014, the organization moved to its current location at 712 E. Eighth St., Belle said.
Belle said the Native American Student Association was founded in 2018 and has played a key role in promoting and supporting Native and Indigenous voices in the community. NASA worked with the city of Bloomington in 2019 to become the first city in the state to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day, he said.
The presentation included guest speakers from IU faculty and students. The speakers shared their personal stories and experiences.
Michael Ing, guest speaker and professor in the Department of Religious Studies, said he commends the university for taking steps to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day and supporting Indigenous people through increased funding to repatriate Native remains as well as a scholarship for Native students.
“It will be an ongoing effort to rebuild trust and simply decolonizing IU will not be enough,” Ing said. “We must create spaces where Indigenous people determine what happens in that space. We must Indigenize IU.”
Ing said Native people have high dropout rates and are less likely to enroll in secondary schools.
“It will be a beautiful day when there are more living Natives on this campus than dead ones,” Ing said.
Jo Long, guest speaker and NASA president, said the recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day on the IU Bloomington campus is a momentous thing, but IU still has 202 years of racist and colonial history to make up for. Long said IU’s Native American and Indigenous Studies Program is neglected.
“I am behind in my minor of Native American and Indigenous Studies because there is no professor currently teaching ‘Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies,’” Long said.
Ryan Comfort, guest speaker and Media School professor, said he was glad that IU chose to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day and hopes they continue to do so into the future. Comfort spoke on the importance of Indigenous people telling their stories and sharing their experiences and perspectives.
“For my Native friends, tell me your stories," Comfort said. "Keep telling your stories. Your stories illustrate the importance of resilience and representation.”
Comfort said that every day he sees young journalists, public relations students and aspiring communications professionals who want to tell stories that change the world.
“(Media students) need to hear your view of the world to tell those stories well,” Comfort said. “If we don’t tell our stories, who will.”