Date October 6, 2017
Media Contact

Student and Native American groups at Brown to host Indigenous People’s Day celebration

For the second time since Brown’s faculty voted to change Fall Weekend to Indigenous People’s Day, an open-to-the-public gathering on Sunday will mark the occasion with community-building and celebration.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The student group Native Americans at Brown (NAB) and the Native American Heritage Series housed at the Brown Center for Students of Color will host a celebration and social on Sunday afternoon to mark this year’s Indigenous People’s Day in collaboration with various departments, organizations and centers on the Brown campus.

The event is free and open to the entire Brown community and the greater public and takes place in Sayles Hall, located on the College Green on Brown’s campus in Providence.

Brown undergraduate Sarena Gray, one of the event’s organizers, said the aim is to celebrate native and indigenous people, both at Brown and globally and to increase awareness of their presence at Brown and beyond.

“This event is a way of celebrating who we are as indigenous people and making ourselves known and present on this campus,” Gray said. “But it is also really important to recognize that we as Native Americans at Brown are part of a larger native community in this area and globally.”

This year’s celebration is the second on campus since Brown University faculty voted in February 2016 to change the designation of the second Monday of October from Fall Weekend to Indigenous People’s Day. The vote followed an NAB resolution to the Brown University Community Council calling for the name change, as well as campus-wide advocacy for the change. Modifications to the academic calendar require a faculty vote.

In October 2016, students, faculty and staff marked the first official Indigenous People’s Day at Brown with an NAB-organized event focused on the previous year’s advocacy around Indigenous People’s Day. The event featured a re-enactment of a fall 2015 protest calling on faculty to formally recognize the day, as well as related panel discussions and the viewing of a film documenting the student activism.

While this year’s celebration still seeks to recognize these student efforts, Gray said the emphasis is on celebratory community building and the recognition of native and indigenous communities beyond Brown’s gates.

Partnering with the Tomaquag Museum, a Rhode Island organization dedicated to indigenous history, culture and arts, NAB will host a screening and discussion of the film “Awake: A Dream of Standing Rock,” which documents the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest against the creation of an oil pipeline adjacent to their reservation in South Dakota.

The screening will be followed by a festive social gathering featuring songs by Iron River Singers, an intertribal group of Northern-style powwow singers; Eastern-style social songs by Jonathan Perry, a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah); and musical performances by native Hawaiian Guy Kahokulani Imoto. There will also be a spread of traditional indigenous foods, catered by Sherry Pocknett, member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

“It is important for native and indigenous students to be able to come together in a place where they feel comfortable expressing their indigeneity — whatever that might mean to them,” Gray said. “And as students, we all need a break. So it’s also about singing songs and playing games and eating good food. We also build our community by having fun.”

Campus co-sponsors of the Indigenous People’s Day social include Native American and Indigenous Studies at Brown; the departments of anthropology, English, history, music, and Theatre Arts and Performance Studies; the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology; the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society; the John Carter Brown Library; the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity; and the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life.