Myki Dee Kim, Staff Writer
In the ongoing conversation regarding the rights of indigenous people, movements are taking place in order to educate, protect, and acknowledge the rights of the indigenous. On Monday Oct. 14, under the direction of Cultural Diversity Senator Jayci Alohi Gomes, Saint Martin’s held its very first Indigenous People’s Day event. The event lasted from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with the intent for students and the campus community to find time within that frame to drop in and support presenters. Speakers varied from Saint Martin’s very own campus to the outside community, coming together to shed light on the rights of their native peoples.
During the event, there was a wide variety of indigenous people’s present. Representation included those from the Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, and Native American communities. The day began with acknowledgement of the land and opening prayers from respective cultures. Aside from the groups speaking about their communities, there were talks regarding intersectionality of indigenous peoples and an identity tea time. Intersectionality of Indigenous people’s covered an in-depth understanding of the connections between social categories such as race, class, and gender in respect to individuals and communities at large. The identity tea time provided an affinity opportunity for students of color and allies to offer reflection about the importance and true meaning of the word “identity.”
Gomes felt that in her role, she needed to be able to have a place for indigenous students to share their similarities and differences, and represent their own individual cultures. As a native Hawaiian, she personally knows the struggles that her people face when it comes to differentiating cultures.
Gomes aimed for the event to “provide students with the ability to learn and educate themselves on these people which whom are struggling and need support from outside their communities. Education is key to having a productive and effective dialogue about indigenous peoples and their rights.”
One of her main hopes of the event was that the student body as a whole was able to think for themselves and become more aware of indigenous students and populations around them. She also hopes that those in attendance were able to learn of harmful acts done to indigenous people’s on their own soil.
Presenters for the event came with knowledgeable backgrounds and heartfelt connections to educating the community about their culture and some of the dark pasts that occurred along the way. Junior Monique Hasegawa-Ilae represented the native Hawaiian Community. Monique believes that this event is a great way to bring light for the shadowed past that indigenous people have had to live with for so long. Hasegawa-Ilae’s presentation entailed a brief summary of Hawaiian history and the connection of indigenous people all around the world. Senior Megan Quinones represented the Puerto Rican community.
Quinones believes that this event was a needed program on campus, as she stated “that it is critical we honor indigenous people each and every day.”
In her presentation, Quinones went into depth regarding the historical legacy of colonialism on the island of Puerto Rico, formerly known as Borinquén. Quinones was able to captivate the audience’s attention by presenting with the tools of poetry and storytelling. Her presentation topics had a wide range of coverage from the construction of Taino, African, and Spanish identity, the diaspora, implications of Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) legislation, Hurricane Maria, and #RickyReuncia. Junior Giulia Perini represented the Native American Community. Perini commended Gomes and her hard work in making the event possible and allowing the recognition for indigenous students on campus in a meaningful way. This also helped spark inclusion and community that is needed to thrive here at Saint Martin’s. Perini and alumna Anna Leone from the class of 2018, did not conduct a formal presentation, but rather held a conversation with those present in the room. The initial topic for their presentation was Coastal Tribes and Art. Leone is a member of the Chumash Nation and Perini is a member of the Quileute Nation. She was able to share her love of beading as it has helped reconnect her to her Chumash traditions and assist in her healing process. Perini spoke about her experience weaving cedar and learning this tradition from elders and master weavers of the Quileute Nation. Leone and Perini were able to share their personal Saint Martin’s stories as they discussed the idea of being a minority among minorities.
The two have seen the campus community evolve and become more inclusive towards indigenous people and were “happy to connect with four other Native students present at the talk who began attending Saint Martin’s this year and who started an Indigenous Peoples Alliance.”
Many individuals across the campus community, both past and present, came to share in the educational seminar for the day. Crystina Smith, an alumna from the class of 2018, came to the event and said that she was “on overload.” Smith came to the event with an open mind and with the heart of being receptive to such a heavy topic. She wanted to remain considerate to the presenters and the cultures present while being actively engaged to learn. Prior to this event, Smith never partook in conversations regarding the rights and history of indigenous people, but after this event, she felt as if she left with a better knowledge and understanding of the rights and pasts of indigenous communities.
If you have further questions regarding the Indigenous People’s Day event or anything within that area, do not hesitate to reach out to the Senator of Cultural Diversity. Her office hours are on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays in the Diversity and Equity Center (The DEC) from 1 to 2 p.m., or swing by The DEC on the second floor of Harned Hall and participate in a respectful and educational dialogue.