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.