Native Amer. students hold different view on Columbus

by Kevin Garland | 10/12/04 5:00am

For the majority of students on campus, Columbus Day was just another Monday full of classes and exams. But for a number of Native American students and community members, it was much more.

The NAD community gathered on the Green early Monday morning to celebrate its heritage during the initial hours of the national holiday, which Dartmouth does not officially recognize. Playing drums and chanting, a procession of about 50 students made their way from the NAD house to the Green at midnight.

The gathering has occurred annually for at least the past 15 years, according to Josh Clause '05, a member of Dartmouth's Native American community. He and other students involved with NAD, as well as several professors with Native American heritage, met at the affinity house before congregating on the Green at midnight on Columbus Day.

For Clause, the day was not a joyous reminder of European presence in North America.

"From a native perspective, it's commemorating a day that has caused us to fight for the existence of our people, our culture, our traditions, and it's really been uphill ever since," he said.

Clause said the day is often historically misrepresented.

"It shouldn't be about Columbus discovering America. North America was here already. There were people living here already," Clause said. "His discovery pushed through hundreds of years of genocide, cultural oppression and assimilation policies."

But several NAD students emphasized that the event had absolutely no purpose as a protest.

"From what I know, it's not a protest, but rather a commemoration for the indigenous people," said Gilbert Littlewolf '07, who also drummed last night. "We gather to remember and celebrate indigenous cultures that are still here."

Kimberly Alsenay '05 sees the event as a venue for recognizing Native American cultures across the United States and beyond.

"A lot of people don't realize that Native American cultures are still strong and still around today. They think that all of the natives have assimilated into mainstream society," Alsenay said.

Despite mixed feelings towards the holiday, the students who attended the event thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

"It's not a gloomy event. We had a lot of laughs last night and it was fun," Littlewolf said. "After the drumming we came back to the NAD house and we chilled."

Clause also commented on the positive community atmosphere at the event.

"On this campus, we're each other's support system. This community here of NAD is very strong," Clause said. "We go out there and show everyone how much we support each other."

Safety and Security shut down last night's events at around 1 a.m., due to noise complaints. However, there was no animosity from those present toward the officers.

"They were real nice," Clause said. "They waited for us to finish our song."