UB will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day the second Monday of every October, with events and activities honoring and celebrating Indigenous people. But only the Faculty Senate is empowered to cancel classes that day, according to the university.
“Our scholarly community values Indigenous cultures, histories, traditions, knowledge systems and political entities, and deeply appreciates the important role of Indigenous people in the history, the present and the future of our region, this country and the world,” UB President Satish Tripathi said in a statement announcing the observation of this holiday.
Last January, UB received a $3.174 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of a new Department of Indigenous Studies, which is set to launch over the next three years.
The department will “offer new incorporation of Indigenous knowledge across the university and disciplines,” Despina Stratigakos, vice provost for inclusive excellence in UB’s Office of Inclusive Excellence, said in a statement.
“The department will [also] offer new forms of land-based pedagogy, and will foster the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge across the university and disciplines,” Stratigakos said.
Stratigakos says that “more and more” students will have the opportunity to take classes about Indigenous peoples and their history, culture and knowledge. UB had 15 Native American students in 2020, up from 12 in 2018.
UB operates on land that is the traditional territory of the Seneca Nation, a member of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and that is covered by a Greek Lake compact, The Dish with One Spoon Treaty of Peace and Friendship. The region is still home to the Haudenosaunee people to this day.
In a statement, UB says it “responsibly acknowledge[s] the continuing impact of settler colonialism on the Haudenosaunee and their territories.”
This year marks the first time a sitting U.S. president officially recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day, with President Joe Biden issuing a proclamation Friday in recognition of the day.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is held annually on the second Monday of October and honors the histories and cultures of Native Americans. The holiday began in 1992 as a counter-celebration of Columbus Day, which honors the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus.
Columbus Day has been celebrated in New York since 1792, to commemorate the anniversary of his landing in the New World. But in recent decades, people have expressed their criticism of the holiday, in reference to Columbus’ colonization efforts and treatment of the Indigenous population.
UB will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day to “honor the contributions and residency of Indigenous people and cultures, and to raise awareness about the continuing impact of settler colonialism on Indigenous people and cultures,” the university said in a statement.
Despite observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a holiday, UB held classes Monday — and will continue to do so, unless the Faculty Senate decides to cancel classes and adds a class day to the semester, the university says.
Other SUNY schools, like Stony Brook and UAlbany, suspended classes for fall break on Monday and Tuesday. UB gave off for Labor Day — this year on Sept. 6 — and Thanksgiving weekend — this year from Nov. 24 to 27 — during the fall semester.
Faculty Senate chair Frederick Stoss said the possibility of an off day in future years has been “added to the agenda” of Wednesday’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee meeting.
“UB is committed to working to ensure Indigenous futures by affirming Indigenous ethos, histories, traditions, knowledge systems and political entities as expressed throughout our tripartite mission of education, research and service,” the university said.
Justin Weiss is the managing editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Justin Weiss is the The Spectrum's managing editor. In his free time, he can be found hiking, playing baseball or throwing things at his TV when his sports teams aren't winning. His words have appeared in Elite Sports New York and the Long Island Herald. He can be found on Twitter @Jwmlb1.