On Monday, around 40 University of Iowa students and community members gathered on the Pentacrest to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and highlight the ongoing struggles Indigenous people face. The rally was organized by the UI Native American Student Association (NASA) and several members of the group shared what the day meant to them.
To NASA president Xiomara Santana it means “Awareness to what is happening to Indigenous people around the world.” This sentiment was echoed by several of the speakers who emphasized that this is not only an American problem, but a global issue. Jackie Rand, an associate professor of Native North American history and a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, also spoke about American Indian erasure and the importance of Indigenous People’s Day, in a country where many people either don’t appreciate the importance of the day or think it’s a joke.
Both the Johnson County Board of Supervisors and the Iowa City Council have proclaimed Oct. 9 Indigenous People’s Day, but the federal holiday, Columbus Day, is still more widely recognized. President Trump issued an official proclamation last week for Columbus Day, which praised Columbus without mention of the violence committed by Europeans in the Americas.
The rally was also used to highlight the ongoing struggle to solve cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, who the group said are often overlooked by federal and state law enforcement. UI student and NASA member Dawson Davenport spoke about Rita Papakee, a Meskwaki woman that has been missing for over two years. Davenport, who is also Meskwaki, shared a poem and concluded by saying that Indigenous people were “striving to preserve what we have left.”