By Tom Vielkind SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Syracuse University celebrated today as Indigenous People’s Day for the fourth time since 2016. Individuals of native descent, friends and supporters gathered on the Syracuse University quad to protest what they say is a holiday surrounded by negativity towards them. People of all ages were at the protest today, including ten-year-old Lyla Hill.
“We are still here, and our ancestors made sure of that,” Hill said. “And I am proud.”
Hill’s school was closed for Columbus Day today and she chose to fight for a change in people’s minds, rather than sleep in. While Syracuse University observes Indigenous People’s Day, the end goal is not to just have the campus community celebrate the holiday. Maris Jacobs, co-president of the Syracuse University Native Student Program said she believes in order for a difference to be made, the holiday must move off the Hill.
“We’ve done a lot of work to continue the celebration, but we really want other people to have it become a norm, instead of just for us it should be celebrated by everybody,” Jacobs said.
Part of this change in philosophy is education, and with documents available such as “The Rights of Indigenous People,” musical instruments, and books about Native American tribes, those at the protest today certainly had the ability to learn about the importance of the holiday. Jacobs believes this is the first step to changing the narrative about Indigenous People’s Day.
“Words carry a lot of weight and sometimes you don’t realize it sometimes people say it’s just Columbus Day, just another day of the year, but for us you’re continuing a narrative that only celebrates a certain people,” Jacobs said. “[It’s] a way to change history in a way and history has not been kind to us.”