Views on the News: Indigenous Peoples Day
Oct. 11, 2021 marks Indigenous Peoples Day, a time when many recognize and honor the history, heritage and experiences of Indigenous and Native American populations. As early as 1990 and in recognition of the past and ongoing genocide experienced by these communities at the hands of colonists such as Christopher Columbus and other non-Indigenous populations, Indigenous activists around the world have been pressing states and countries to adopt the commemoration’s title change in honor of these communities and the realities of their lived experiences. To this day, 36 U.S. states still do not recognize Indigenous Peoples Day as an official holiday, including Massachusetts.
How will you spend this day? What is the significance of commemorating this day in Massachusetts, and/or as a nation as a whole (in the United States or otherwise)? The University recognizes the day and staff do not work in observance, but faculty and students still attend classes. Should the University be closed on this day in commemoration?
Prof. Cristina Espinosa (Heller)
Indigenous peoples refers to all those populations that after the colonial encounter survived genocide, dispossession and exploitation, resisting ethnocide or forced assimilation imposed by colonial and postcolonial states and by institutions promoting market expansion under Western modernist hegemonies. Indigenous peoples remain invisible, marginalized and under attack since their territories are rich in biodiversity and natural resources, which are valued commodities in times of globalization.
Brandeis, with their commitment to social justice, cannot ignore the rights of Indigenous peoples to maintain their distinct cultures, languages, spirituality and ancestral territories. They should be recognized as key stakeholders in the building of democratic and pluri-ethnic states, and inclusive, fair and sustainable development. The rights of Indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities should be added to Brandeis’ agenda for social justice, along with gender, racial and social justice and religious tolerance and diversity. These topics should be incorporated within the curriculum through mandatory courses or assignments.
If Brandeis made Indigenous Peoples Day a holiday, students could attend different celebratory events organized across programs and submit an assignment for specific regular courses that could make room to include this topic. From 2011 to 2020 I taught Master’s in Sustainable International Development program within a graduate seminar on “Indigenous Peoples and Development: Challenges and Synergies.” Unfortunately, the struggle of Indigenous peoples and their contribution for a holistic, fair, ethical and sustainable solution to our environmental and social crisis still remain ignored by the majority of professionals and the public. It is time to change that within Brandeis.
Cristina Espinosa is an associate professor at The Heller School for Social Policy & Management who lectures in gender and development, globalization, Indigenous people and ethnicity in development, among other areas of focus.
Prof. Gannit Ankori (FA)
This Indigenous Peoples Day, I will be returning from the Drents Museum in the Netherlands from the exhibition “Viva La Frida” that I co-curated with my colleague and dear friend Circe Henestrosa, an Indigenous Mexican fashion scholar and curator. The show highlights Frida Kahlo’s paintings, dresses and accessories that deliberately celebrate indigenous Mexican cultures.
Upon my return, the Rose Art Museum will be announcing artist Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds (b. 1954, Cheyenne/Arapaho) as its 2021-2022 Ruth Ann and Nathan Perlmutter Artist-in-Residence. The Rose team and I know that the violent dispossession, enslavement and dispersal of multiple Indigenous communities and individuals by settler-colonialism facilitated the very existence of our museum here, on this land. This residency will support the permanent installation of the artist’s spatial interventions series, Native Hosts — the first in New England — which, in collaboration with this land’s native communities, insists that the forced seizure of native lands and the sovereignty of these grounds be brought into contemporary conversations. As we strive to repair relationships with native peoples and their land, we commit to actively learning from, respecting and amplifying native voices by pursuing partnerships with Indigenous artists and communities. Inviting Edgar to the Rose is but one step in this long and necessary journey towards healing and justice.
Gannit Ankori is a professor of Fine Arts and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and is the Henry and Lois Foster Director and Chief Curator of the Rose Art Museum. She lectures in modern and contemporary fine art and gender, nationalism, trauma, religion, and other topics.
Prof. Janet McIntosh (ANTH)
On Indigenous Peoples Day, we will be discussing pernicious legacies of colonialism in both my classes. In “Anthropology of Military and Policing,” we’re talking about the civil war in Mozambique, which began in the 1970s in the wake of Portuguese colonialism, and which was stoked by white supremacist leaders in neighboring Rhodesia and South Africa who were afraid they would fall if Mozambique’s new black majority government were to flourish. In “Psychological Anthropology,” we will be discussing the colonial imposition of particular models of kinship on indigeous societies in sub-Saharan Africa, resulting in complex and competing ideologies of what counts as “love.” In both cases, we will be exploring lesser-known ways that European colonialism has been a shaping force and a source of pain. I’d say my own preference would be for classes to continue on Indigenous Peoples Day, precisely so that it can serve as a time and space for more focused learning about history, power, and experiences that have been historically underrepresented.
Jane McIntosh is a professor of Anthropology, who lectures in linguistic anthropology, anthropology of the military and policing, narrative and discourse, personhood and other anthropological focuses.