From Where We Are

USC students celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Today marks the second federally recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the U.S.

USC Native American Student Assembly celebrates Indigenous Peoples' Day

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

Today, we celebrate the presence and contributions of Native Americans in our society. This is not only a day of remembrance, but also a day to appreciate the current impact of Native Americans. However, despite President Joe Biden making Indigenous Peoples’ Day a federal holiday last year, only 10 states officially recognize this day via proclamation. We talked with students on their feelings surrounding this holiday.

Today, for the second year, President Joe Biden recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day alongside Columbus Day. He officially proclaimed it a national federal holiday last year for the first time in U.S. history.

Sophomore Law, History, and Culture major Nizhoni McDonough is a member of the Navajo tribe and says the recognition is not enough.

NIZHONI MCDONOUGH: There is a lot of issues still to be resolved within Native American communities and without especially important issues such as missing and murdered indigenous woman. It’s one of, um, very bad epidemic of indigenous women going missing and then not being found murdered or sexually assaulted. And that often happens at a higher rate for Native American women than any other race.

Sophomore Psychology major Daniel Williams is part of the Navajo tribe and also part Sioux. He believes the national recognition of Indigenous populations has been increasing in recent years.

DANIEL WILLIAMS: Lately within the news media, I feel like there has been a lot of improvements like you talked about, like the entertainment industry. We have a lot more native actors, actresses out there like have reservation dogs on Hulu. You got Prey that just recently came out. So it’s really interesting to see how how much better has gotten.

States and cities have been celebrating the holiday for a lot longer. The day traces back to the 90s in states like South Dakota and California. Berkeley was one of the first cities to formally replace Columbus Day in 1992 with what they called “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People.”

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors passed a motion for the replacement of Columbus Day in 2017 and was formally recognized in 2019 at the same time as the entire state of California. Governor Newsom issued a proclamation that year to “pay respect to the cultures and populations that existed long before European contact.”

Sophomore Daniel Williams believes celebrating the holiday strengthens community in Indigenous populations and spreads awareness.

DANIEL WILLIAMS: Not a lot of people realize or even recognize that we’re still here. I mean, we’ve gone through genocide, assimilation, and yet we’re still here. So making this a day for us specifically just really helps other natives feel more empowered and just like to take pride in who they are.

The USC Native American Student Association held an event on Alumni Park today to spread awareness and host conversations regarding Indigenous populations. The event was promoted on social media with the hashtag #AskANative.

Junior Health promotion and disease prevention studies major Natalie Battiest of the Choctaw tribe thinks USC has made slow progress in recognizing Indigenous students.

NATALIE BATTIEST: There was the building renaming of Joseph Medicine Crow. There has been changes. However, it did take a while and longer than it should have. We are still actively making efforts to become recognized on campus, such as on the Native American Heritage Month. This upcoming November, we’re finally possibly might be getting banners. And I feel like they should have done years ago.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrations will continue tonight at 7 pm with a Native American short film showcase at Norris cinema. People should also look out in November for banners hung across campus in in honor of Native American Heritage Month.