K-State celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day with speaker, education

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The Indigenous Faculty and Staff Alliance hosted the event “Asserting Sovereignty: Innovations and Battlegrounds” on Oct. 14 to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The mission of the Indigenous Alliance is to create decolonized spaces at the university and increase the presence, promotion and support of Indigenous faculty, staff and students at Kansas State.

Several states across the country now recognize and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 14 instead of Columbus Day. Native American advocates have urged states to change the name of the federal holiday in the hopes of steering the attention away from Christopher Columbus.

“We’ve been putting on this event for four years now, and every year we pick a topic to sort of crowdsource in the group and see what comes out,” Audrey Swartz, library assistant in University Archives and Special Collections, said. “This year it was asserting sovereignty, so talking about our rights to be here, and our rights to our bodies and ourselves and our land.”

Meredith McCoy, a Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa descent, presented “Settler Colonial Realism: Historical Considerations for Contemporary Educational Sovereignty” as the main speaker.

McCoy started her presentation with an introduction in her native tongue. She continued her presentation with where she came from, who she is and what she was going to present about.

“Education is sort of in my surroundings … I wanted nothing to do with being a teacher because it was the air that I breathed, and yet here I am.” McCoy said when talking about how her family is full of educators.

In her presentation she covered multiple topics including Native American education, the influence of Native Nations over federal funding to education and the strategic creativity Natives have had on their own education.

“Indian education has not deviated from its vision to incorporate Native people into the settler state via assimilation in two hundred years,” McCoy said. “As Native Nations have expanded their influence over schooling, federal funding for Indian education programs have been volatile and insufficient. Native people have always strategized creatively to shape education on their own terms, including through strategic engagement with federal funds.”

The event included several keynote speakers, a video screening and roundtable discussions, breakout panel sessions, closing remarks and a final song. Folders with educational information on Indigenous people and information on how to get involved in various cultural clubs and classes across campus were handed out as well.

A Kansas Association for Native American Education meeting was held after the event.

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