Indigenous Peoples' Day

Minerva Plaza at SUNY Potsdam was ablaze with fall color Monday, as the campus observed Indigenous Peoples Day instead of the Columbus Day holiday. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — On the day that is traditionally celebrated as Columbus Day, SUNY Potsdam observed Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

In a letter to the university delivered Oct. 1, University President Kristin G. Esterberg wrote, “Following consultation with faculty, staff and students, SUNY Potsdam will move to recognize the second Monday of October (which falls on Oct. 14 this year), as Indigenous Peoples Day at the College. The College will observe Indigenous Peoples Day annually on this date moving forward, instead of Columbus Day, although the holiday is still designated as such statewide.”

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There were no classes Monday, and none are scheduled for Tuesday. On the academic calendar the days are designated as fall recess.

Ms. Esterberg noted that Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated in six states, more than 100 cities and by a growing number of universities across the country.

“I have received two petitions seeking this change, and am also following the lead of the SUNY Student Assembly and the SUNY University Faculty Senate, which have both passed resolutions endorsing this change across the SUNY System,” Ms. Esterberg wrote. “By celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, we remember and recognize that millions of people inhabited North and South America before the “discovery” of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492. With hundreds of different cultures, Indigenous peoples and their ways of life were subsequently decimated, subjugated, and, in some cases nearly erased, through enslavement, colonization, disease and war.”

At SUNY Canton and Clarkson University, students are on fall recess,  with no classes Monday and Tuesday. At St. Lawrence University, fall recess was last week and classes resumed Monday.

The Mohawk name for the land where Potsdam now sits was Tewatenetarenies, “the place where the gravel settles under the feet in dragging the canoe,” Ms. Esterberg  said in her letter.

“I hope that as our campus marks Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time on Monday, Oct. 14, that you can take the opportunity to learn more about the incredibly rich history and continuing legacy of Indigenous peoples on our campus, in our community and across the country,” she wrote.

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(7) comments


It was Columbus Day, celebrate Indigenous Day on another day!


No thanks.

Mud Duck

Yes, the American Indian was here before Columbus but the cave man was here before the Indians. Should we celebrate that instead?


"The Cave Man" was not here before Native Americans. The original Americans migrated across the Bering Strait as hunters.


Actually there are some theories that findings on the Delmarva peninsula represent signs that Magdalenians from Europe had traveled around the edge of the Atlantic ice from the east about the same time the Clovis cultures were coming from the West, before a meteor hit the ice in Northern Canada and set off the most recent glacial advance. While not Neanderthals, the Magdalenians could be categorized as "cavemen" since they were associated with the people who created the famous cave paintings in Europe. Some consider this theory rampant and possibly racist speculation.


Not according to the Solutrean (not Magdalenian) hypothesis.


Let's just let Halloween be the October holiday.

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