NALSA Indigenous Peoples’ Day Statement

The Native American Law Students Association at Harvard Law School calls upon Harvard University to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day as the official school holiday on the second Monday in October. In continuing to celebrate Columbus Day, Harvard University disregards the student body’s strong support of this measure by not taking any action to catalyze this change.

NALSA is a student-run organization composed of Native American law students and students interested in issues affecting Native American communities. For over 20 years, we have worked to promote campus discourse on Federal Indian and tribal law issues, support student and faculty inquiry into these areas of law, and recruit Native students to Harvard Law School. NALSA contributes substantively to rigorous academic discussions inside and outside the classroom and is one of the cornerstones of creating a more inclusive environment in the law school. The requests contained in this statement would provide a strong contribution to NALSA’s goals by bringing the issues that have plagued Native communities for generations to the dialogical forefront of a renowned academic institution.

The continued celebration of Columbus Day supports a revisionist history in which the oppression, genocide, and continued mistreatment of the indigenous peoples of the Americas is obscured such that difficult facts cannot be acknowledged and difficult conversations cannot be had. We at NALSA would like to open pathways to these difficult conversations rather than continue to sweep them under a historical rug. Recognition and acknowledgement are the first steps to healing, and recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an excellent way to do so.

Today and every day, we cannot forget the Massachuset, Mashpee Wampanoag, and Wampanoag of Gay Head American Indian tribes on whose land we stand on. Their sacrifices to Harvard University and the state of Massachusetts are what permit us to hone our minds, broaden our horizons and pursue our passions within this institution. In recognition of their contributions, we urge the university to establish a memorial recognizing the Massachuset, Mashpee Wampanoag, and Wampanoag of Gay Head American Indian tribes.

For too long, we have depended on individual student advocacy on behalf of Native American populations. Today, we ask the entire Harvard community to stand with us and recognize this important day in American history and carry that recognition forward into tangible actions for future generations. Harvard University should commit itself to upholding historical truths, to creating opportunities for dialogue around injustices currently facing indigenous communities, and to celebrating indigeneity. To accept anything less constitutes a gross miscarriage of justice.

Please join the Native American Law Students Association on October 9th, 2017 in Harvard Yard from 3-5pm for our annual Indigenous Peoples Day Community Event.

Leilani Doktor and Chris Childers are 2Ls. They are the co-presidents of NALSA.

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