The first Indigenous Peoples’ Week is being held through Friday by the Native American and Indigenous Collective.
While Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been recognized at UT in past years, this is the first time a week-long program of events has been organized. Alicia Ramirez, administrative assistant for the Native American and Indigenous Studies Department, said student groups were preparing for Indigenous Peoples’ Week before the Austin City Council voted to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Thursday and were not aware the high-profile decision would happen just days before their first event.
“There’s definitely always been interest on campus, but that interest has gone up like 80 percent with the announcement of Austin renaming the date,” Ramirez said. “There’s more media attention and notoriety. Hopefully, it’ll bring out more people and get more people involved with the conversation.”
Luis Carcamo-Huechante, director of the Program in Native American and Indigenous Studies, said the extension reflects the importance of indigenous rights.
“Across the years, students and members of our academic community have realized that to have only activities within one day is not enough for the many themes to cover,” Carcamo-Huechante said. “It has that double dimension; to reflect critically on a difficult history. And on the other hand, it’s a moment to honor indigenous legacies in this region. I think that’s why it has become not a day, but a whole week.”
The week comes at a vital time in the country’s political climate, said Jessica Sanchez-Flores, Iberian and Latin American languages and cultures graduate student.
“With everything that’s been going on, I do hope that it has a positive impact on the UT community,” Sanchez-Flores said. “It’s been centuries since colonization occurred, but I think there’s been new systematic ways that we still see the colonization of not just indigenous people, but many minority groups. And with this political context in which we are currently in, having this calls attention (to the fact) that it happened long ago but still continues to happen not only in those communities, but even here on campus.”
Hosting Indigenous Peoples’ Week is ultimately part of a broader duty, Ramirez said.
“If we weren’t doing this, it would be silencing the histories of native indigenous people in Texas who are still here and go to UT and are part of the staff,” Ramirez said. “To not do anything would be a problem.”