Indigenous Peoples' Day at Virginia Tech

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We, the undersigned Indigenous students, hereby call on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors to declare the second Monday in October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”. We propose that the day be designated as such and be reflected on university calendars and other appropriate materials.

It is the duty of the Board of Visitors to affirm that celebrations of genocide and slavery have no place at Virginia Tech in accordance with our Principles of Community which state, in part, “We take individual and collective responsibility for helping to eliminate bias and discrimination and for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education, training, and interaction with others.” Furthermore, we have the shared responsibility to recognize and validate the generations of trauma inflicted upon Indigenous peoples. Christopher Columbus who, upon encountering Indigenous peoples’, wrote in his journal, “with fifty men, we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”[i]

Recognizing “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” is but one step toward cultivating a more positive and welcoming environment for Indigenous students and visitors at Virginia Tech, which was historically under the stewardship of the Monacan and Tutelo Peoples. We must recognize our history of subjecting Native communities in Virginia to eugenics and erasure policies as well as prohibiting Indigenous students from attending public schools until the 1960’s. Additionally, declaring “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” advances efforts toward reciprocal partnerships with the eleven tribal communities of the state, a goal established at last year’s Tribal Summit which was hosted by the Office of the President at Virginia Tech.

Therefore, we call on members of the Board of Visitors adding Virginia Tech’s name to the growing list of colleges and universities across the United States in replacing “Columbus Day” with “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”[ii]

Jason N. Chavez- Tohono O’odham, Class of 2019

Qualla Jo Ketchum - Cherokee Nation, Biological Systems Engineering PhD Student

Sarah Giles Woodward- Osage Nation, Class of 2019

Christina Shammas - Blackfeet Nation, Class of 2018

Stacey Wilkerson- Higher Education PhD Student

Devin Ketchum- Delaware Tribe of Indians, Electrical & Computer Engineering MS Student

Melissa Faircloth- Coharie, Class of 2019

Lucia Chambi - Quechua, Class of 2020

Caylin Stewart- Chickahominy Indian Tribe, Class of 2018

Shoa Deese- Lumbee, Class of 2019.                                      

Doris Brown- Shinnecock Indian Nation, Class of 2019

Nizhoni Tallas- Navajo (Diné), Class of 2021

Kai Baisden- Cherokee & Hawaiian, Class of 2020

Dr. Samuel Cook- Director of American Indian Studies

Heather Gerrish- Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Class of 2020 

Dr. Mae Hey - Anishinaabe, InclusiveVT Faculty Fellow Indigenous Communities Liaison

Katharina Deiter- Peepeekisis Cree, Class of 2019

[i]Christopher Columbus, journal entry, October 14, 1492
[ii]Arizona State University, Beacon College, Bennington College, Boise State University, Brown University, Cornell University, Fredonia College, Harvard University, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Palo Alto College, Stanford University, Syracuse University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Texas El Paso, and University of Utah.