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Fort Lewis College celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day

Student-artist warns about falling for cultural appropriation
Indigenous Peoples Day began with a Parade of Nations on Monday on the Fort Lewis College campus. The holiday, which began as a counter to Columbus Day, celebrates the indigenous peoples of America and commemorates their shared history and culture.

Indigenous Peoples Day, which has been celebrated at Fort Lewis College in place of Columbus Day since 2016, included a Parade of Nations with some Native American students in traditional clothing celebrating their cultures.

Ken Walker, who presented one of several workshops Monday in the Student Union, also noted that this year Native American students will be able to wear their traditional clothing in place of the cap and gown during commencement ceremonies.

As a student, FLC alumna Ruthie Edd advocated for the recognition of the holiday with the aim of giving students, teachers and the community an opportunity to talk about Native American history and the history of indigenous people around the world.

FLC student Joi Lynch listens to the welcoming and opening statements for this year’s events Monday in the Student Union Ballroom.

The holiday, which began as a counter to Columbus Day, celebrates the indigenous peoples of America and commemorates their shared history and culture. It is celebrated in many cities, including Durango, Denver, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Salt Lake City and Norman, Oklahoma.

FLC student Alicia Nequatewa, a Hopi and Navajo artist who designed this year’s Indigenous Peoples Day poster, drew a distinction between “inspired Native art” and “Native-inspired art.”

Inspired Native American artists have a rich tradition of purposefully using symbols, materials and colors compared with the harmful practice by chain stores and fashion houses of using copies of Native American art for their own profit, a practice she called “Native-inspired art.”

“Advertising anything as Indian-made when it’s not, when a big chain places a tribal name in a product, none of that is appropriate. It is appropriation of culture,” Nequatewa said.

Going through her own jewelry box, she realized everyone to some extent unwittingly falls into supporting cultural appropriation.

“I got rid of everything that was not handmade,” she said.

Fort Lewis College President Tom Stritikus and Ruthie Edd, who advocated for the observance of Indigenous Peoples Day as a student at Fort Lewis College, discuss Indigenous Peoples Day during welcoming statements at the Student Union Ballroom.

Jeneda Benally, a member of the sister-brother Navajo singing group Sihasin, which performed during the day’s events, told Native American students it is important to follow her father’s advice and not think of the world as divided between the modern world and the traditional cultural world.

“My dad always told us there’s not two worlds. There’s not a traditional world and a modern world. There’s one world, and as Native people, we should cherish our traditions and cherish that we now have all these modern tools to continue our culture.”


An earlier version of this story misidentified Joi Lynch and Ruthie Edd in photo captions.

Jun 23, 2021
Indigenous Peoples Day honors Native Americans at Fort Lewis College
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