Jean Marzollo wrote the famous rhyme, “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” and on the second Monday of October, our country celebrates Columbus Day without acknowledging the full story. His name is printed on every calendar and kids across the country are relieved to have a three day weekend.
Eastern Nazarene College is very fortunate to have a diverse group of students that include Native Americans. There are currently five women’s basketball athletes who each come from different Native American backgrounds and cultures. For indigenous people, Christopher Columbus was the first white man to begin a domino effect of generational trauma and cultural genocide. “People need to know about our background story,” says Mya Timms, a senior on the women’s basketball team. The Navajo and Hopi Native also states, “we aren’t happy with the mascots like the Cleveland Indians or the Kansas City Chiefs and non-Natives think they are representing us. When they don’t actually understand what they are representing.”
As Indigenous People’s Day approaches, the students of ENC should recognize the historical significance behind the actions of Columbus and events that followed. Their cultural genocide and colonization have deeply impacted their current life on reservations. “We are missing, we are being murdered,” Shante Slender of the Navajo Nation states while referring to indigenous women. She hopes to use her electrical engineering degree to bring awareness to health disparities among Native Americans. Slender wants to serve as a mentor and inspire other Native women to pursue careers in STEM fields.
Indigenous athletes raised on the reservation experienced an intense culture shock after initially moving to Boston. Tariq Brownotter, who is from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, is currently adjusting to her new home. She quotes one of her mentors, “As we rise from the ashes to create something even better for our people, we are going to transform our Indian country into something remarkable.” Brownotter describes how this message is currently guiding her through a new chapter at ENC. Their ancestors should be celebrated, as many lost their lives trying to protect their sacred homeland.
All students of ENC should recognize the strength and resilience of Indigenous people from all cultural backgrounds. As Indigenous People’s Day approaches, think about the cultural significance this day brings and not just a long weekend.