Native American student groups host awareness event on history, current events

Hannah Daniel

Following an acknowledgment that the event took place on stolen land, “Feast on This” attendees took part Monday in a Native American prayer, ate tacos, listened to various speakers and watched live performances.

The Native American and Indigenous Collective hosted the event, an annual dinner and discussion of issues facing indigenous communities, in collaboration with the Native American and Indigenous Peoples Association last night in the Student Activity Center Ballroom. 

NAIC Co-President Kristian Byrd said the two student groups have traditionally hosted the event to dispel myths surrounding Thanksgiving, because people don’t typically hear the full story.

“The perspective of the Native Americans, which is an important part of the story, is usually left out,” said Byrd, a civil engineering senior.

Maria Rocha, executive director of the Indigenous Cultures Institute, said Native Americans can’t simply forget about the atrocities their ancestors faced in the past.

“There are two reasons why we can’t get over it,” Rocha said. “What happened 500 years ago set in motion circumstances that are still affecting us today. We still live in poverty, we still have alcoholism … The second reason is that people continue to mess with indigenous peoples. Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, all of those wonderful mythical days — we have to set them straight. We have to set history straight.”

The conversation on relations between indigenous communities and colonial settlers found present-day applications to the ongoing conflict over the Dakota Access Pipeline. Fox RedSky, an activist and filmmaker, spoke about her experiences as a water protector at the Standing Rock Reservation and her new documentary, “Keep the Fire Lit.”

RedSky said the pipeline conflict is a continuation of the violence indigenous communities have experienced throughout history.

“What is going on at the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota is devastating, the way the water protectors are being treated … and for what purpose?” RedSky said. “This could have been handled completely different, but instead they chose to continue the old patterns. … To me this is just another cycle of what has happened in the past. It’s just a repeat.”

RedSky said the conflict reflects the need to respect indigenous rights and the Earth.

“Do what you can, and most important, educate your friends,” RedSky said. “This isn’t getting enough attention. As a human race, we need to admit when we’re wrong and stand up for those who do not have a voice.”