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KU to mark Indigenous Peoples' Day with public events

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Restoration over Retribution, KU Tribal Law event from noon to 1 p.m., Oct. 8, 2018.LAWRENCE — Students, faculty, staff and the general public will have the chance to commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day through two events Monday, Oct. 8, at the University of Kansas.

The first program observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day is “Restoration over Retribution: Peacemaking as a Path Forward,” set for noon-1 p.m. in the Big 12 Room at the Kansas Union.

Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Carl Lejuez will kick off the event with brief remarks and introduce Ron Brave, an Oglala Lakota Nation member with familial connections to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Brave will offer a traditional blessing to open the event.

Following Brave’s blessing, Shawn Watts, clinical associate professor of law and member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, will deliver a presentation that focuses on “traditional tribal methods of dispute and resolution.”

Watts points to Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an opportunity to recognize the strengths and contributions of native culture.

“[Indigenous Peoples’ Day] reminds the community that indigenous people are still a vital part of the fabric of our nation, have survived all of the policies designed to destroy us,” Watts said. “That sort of resilience is the essence of our tribal nations and our nation as a whole.”

Refreshments will be provided for attendees. 

In the evening, there will be a free screening of the documentary “By Blood,” followed by a conversation facilitated by Devon Mihesuah, the Cora Lee Beers Price Teaching Professor in International Cultural Understanding in the Humanities Program. The screening begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Jayhawk Room of the Kansas Union.

“By Blood” documents the fight of American Indians of African-descent to regain their tribal citizenship. This struggle has risen in prominence to showcase a broader conflict about race, identity and the sovereign rights of indigenous people. The film lasts about an hour, after which Mihesuah, an internationally recognized scholar on issues covering empowerment of indigenous peoples, will lead the audience in discussion.

Both of these events are free and open to all.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day commemorations can be traced back to a 1977 conference in which the attendees decided one of the ways to support indigenous peoples is to recognize the formerly known day of the discovery of America as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, according to a Time article.

In 1991, the city council of Berkeley, California, became the first city in the United States to declare recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day. The following year, the city celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day through a variety of cultural activities and events on the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in America.

Multiple departments, offices and organizations at KU came together to organize and support these events, including the KU Tribal Law & Government Center, the First Nations Student Association, the Department of Indigenous Studies, the Native Faculty and Staff Council, the Office of Diversity & Equity and more.