On Saturday, Pomona College’s student government—the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC)—and its president Maria Vides introduced a resolution into the ASPC Senate seeking to “Institutionally Recognize Indigenous People’s Day” in lieu of Columbus Day, a federal holiday.
The resolution states that “students, faculty, and staff at the intersections have had and will presumably continue to have cause to demonstrate in order to ensure Indigenous tribes globally are recognized, especially those impacted by the consequences of Columbus’ arrival to the Americas and the history of colonization that followed. We express solidarity with and encourage participation in institutional, local, national, and international movements for justice regarding Indigenous People’s history and rights.”
The resolution seeks to follow in the footsteps of several other colleges including Pitzer College, Stanford University, Yale University, Brown University, Cornell University, Hamilton College, and Occidental College.
“Five U.S. States formally do not celebrate Columbus Day, and 39 U.S. cities have passed legislation to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day in lieu of Columbus Day,” the resolution asserts, before asking the college to institutionally recognize Indigenous People’s Day.
The resolution would also remove all mentions of Columbus Day from “the academic calendar distributed to students at the start of the academic year, and all other official documents.”
In a message to the Independent, a student of Native American descent stated that “Pomona College doesn’t honor our veterans during the year, and with this move, the student senate has shown that it doesn’t value dialogue about our nation’s history either.”
“Drafting students into a forced veneration of my indigenous culture is wrong and inappropriately shifts the focus away from a critical debate about Columbus as a man and a defining figure in our history. Paying lip service to my culture and ignoring Columbus is par for the course for a student senate that would rather pretend Columbus didn’t exist than to assess his humanity in any remotely complex way,” he added.
Other students from the Claremont Colleges—a university consortium of which Pomona College is a part—differed, with one sophomore from Scripps College telling the Independent that she “think[s] that [Indigenous People’s Day] [is] a smart idea; considering that most of the administration on most campuses have already expressed dissent about Columbus Day… I think that it’s the natural action for the other 5C’s [Claremont Colleges] to follow Pomona’s lead.”
“[I]t is necessary to officially replace it so that students don’t just let the day pass without thinking of the importance of [Columbus] on indigenous people,” she said.
Columbus Day is recognized by the state of California. A bill to replace Columbus Day with “Native American Day” was proposed but did not pass in 2013.
Pomona College is part of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, which also includes Claremont McKenna College, Scripps College, Harvey Mudd and Pitzer College. Only Pitzer College has adopted Indigenous People’s Day.
ASPC President Maria Vides did not offer a comment to the Independent at the time of publication.
William Gu contributed reporting.
Photo: Flickr / Claus Rebler