Indigenous Student Union shines light on its culture

Emily Flamme, News Editor

The Indigenous Student Union at Quinnipiac University celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 12, by hosting an event on Zoom during which it educated students about the history of the day.

“The importance of celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in a way we are now (is) just recognizing it instead of Columbus Day,” said Kiara Tanta-Quidgeon, a junior health sciences major and founder and president of the organization.

Tanta-Quidgeon said the union’s purpose is to acknowledge, educate and celebrate Indigenous culture.

In the event, Tanta-Quidgeon discussed the history of Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day.

Columbus Day became a national holiday in 1934, and in 1977 at the United Nations conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Oct. 12, was declared as an “international day of solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.”

Today, 14 states recognize “Columbus Day” as Indigenous Peoples Day, but Connecticut is not one of them.

The importance of Indigneous Peoples Day is about celebrating the resiliency and strength of Native Americans, Tanta-Quidgeon said.

“The day also recognizes the impact of colonialism on Native communities and celebrates the cultures, stories and history of Indigenous peoples,” Tanta-Quidgeon said.

The event also included a Kahoot game where students answered trivia questions about historical facts about Christopher Columbus, Indigenous culture and the university.

One thing Tanta-Quidgeon asked about was Quinnipiac’s namesake. She said a lot of students are unaware that the university got its name from the Quinnipiac tribe that occupied south-central Connecticut prior to the 18th century.

“A lot of students who go here don’t know that,” Tanta-Quidgeon said. “I think as a university, we need to be doing a better job of acknowledging the land and acknowledging the presence of the people who once occupied the land. Also, using what we have now at this institution that we built to educate these people about the history of the Quinnipiac people.”

Abby Blackmore, a sophomore film, television and media arts major, said she feels Quinnipiac can do a better job educating its students about Indigenous culture, especially considering its namesake.

“I also think it would be better for the university to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in place of Columbus Day,” Blackmore said. “When we were younger, we used to learn about Columbus and him ‘discovering’ America. It would be more historically accurate to instead use this day to teach students about Indigenous people and the land.”

Blackmore suggested that the university can use first-year seminar (FYS) classes as an opportunity to educate students about the local and global Indigenous community.

If people want to be allies to the Indigenous community, they should keep educating themselves, Tanta-Quidgeon said.

“I’m not blaming anyone for their lack of education, but you should research and listen (because) when you educate yourself you can be a better advocate,” Tanta-Quidgeon said. “One thing that we want to do as the Indigenous student union is celebrate the diversity that exists across Indigenous populations.”

The Indigenous Student Union is hosting events on Zoom every day from Oct. 12-15, to educate Quinnipiac’s student body about Indigenous culture and experiences.