To celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, UT’s Native American Indigenous Collective hosted a meet and greet and film screening to increase campus awareness of indigenous cultures.
Luis Cárcamo-Huechante, acting director of Native American and Indigenous Studies, said these events are part of an effort to solidify the presence of indigenous cultures on campus and in the larger communities of Austin and Texas.
“The question of invisibility and marginalization has been critical to the lives of American Indians in Texas,” Cárcamo-Huechante said. “By having a visibility as a Native American and indigenous group on campus, we contribute to strengthen the presence of Native views.”
In fall of last year, Native Americans represented 0.2 percent of the total UT student population.
Quichi Patlan, an anthroplogy graduate student, said indigenous professors have opted to leave campus to teach at other institutions in the past because the indigenous population on UT’s campus is small. Patlan said NAIC is looking to build a base of members on campus using a mentorship system to attract more indigenous people to the community on campus.
“At the stage right now, we are building blocks up so that we can build this mentorship program, where hopefully we can get to a point in which we as graduate students, have some type of mentorship toward undergraduate students so undergraduates don’t graduate and leave, but maybe apply for graduate school here,” Patlan said.
Last year, UT-Austin decided to officially recognize Oct. 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in lieu of Columbus Day. The decision came after a petition with NAIC earned more than 2000 signatures.
“UT already did not recognize Columbus Day, but we wanted to take that one step further and make Indigenous People’s Day a marked event in the UT calendar,” Serena Sonnenberg, architecture senior and member of NAIC, said. “We wanted to expose the community here to some of the struggles that Native communities face and to bring indigenous people to the forefront of people’s minds.”
Sonnenberg said Columbus Day should not be acknowledged because it is the celebration of someone who committed horrible atrocities and began generations of genocide and racism toward an entire community of people.
“I think that Columbus Day as a national holiday is something that should not at all be acceptable to people in this country or any other country, and to make the day that celebrates indigenous people instead is a way to shift the consciousness and make people think more critically about history and what actually happened,” Sonnenberg said.