Virginia Tech approves resolution to observe Indigenous Peoples Day
On Feb. 18, 2019, history was made at Virginia Tech as the University Council approved a resolution to observe Indigenous Peoples Day.
As part of Virginia Tech’s ongoing commitment to InclusiveVT, the university will observe Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday of October each year. InclusiveVT is the university’s institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence.
Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community state, “We take individual and collective responsibility for helping to eliminating bias and discrimination and for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education, training, and interaction with others.”
Every year, states, cities, towns, counties, community groups, churches, universities, schools, and other institutions observe Indigenous Peoples Day or Native American Day with activities that raise awareness of the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. They do so to thank the Native people, their supporters, and others who have gathered for decades and continue to gather now at prayer vigils, powwows, symposiums, concerts, lectures, rallies, and classrooms to help America rethink American history.
Indigenous Peoples Day is intended to celebrate Native Americans and to honor their place in our shared history and culture. On Oct. 4, 2018, Indigenous Peoples Day was recognized for the first time on Virginia Tech’s campus.
President Tim Sands noted that the Virginia Tech community supports, respects, and recognizes that the history of the campus spreads beyond the university’s founding in 1872. The Tutelo/Monacan people are the original stewards of the land on which this community works and lives, and they have a continuing connection to the natural resources that support the university’s endeavors.
The public recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day provides an opportunity for education and engagement. Indigenous Peoples Day recognizes that Native people are the first inhabitants of the Americas, including the lands that later became included within the United States of America. And it urges Americans to rethink history.
“We are truly proud of our ongoing commitment to creating an inclusive environment. At Virginia Tech, inclusion is woven in the fabric of our daily experiences,” Sands said. “Fostering and adhering to an inclusive culture that cultivates a dynamic intercultural environment of research, learning, and community engagement is truly essential.”
“It is indeed a great moment at Virginia Tech as we continue to be champions of nurturing an inclusive, welcoming, and affirming campus culture. Acknowledging the important role of Native Americans as part of our institution reflects our commitment to InclusiveVT,” said Virginia Tech Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Affairs Menah Pratt-Clarke.
“When I first arrived at Virginia Tech 20 years ago, this would almost have been inconceivable,” said Sam Cook, director of American Indian Studies. “But more to the point: Sixty years ago, the idea that Indigenous people might attend a state educational facility was inconceivable. This is a milestone, but it’s also just a beginning. We are indebted to Dr. Sands and Dr. Pratt-Clarke for not steering away from the hard conversations needed to make advances like this possible.”
“The recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day by Virginia Tech is an extraordinary step forward for the university, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Indigenous People,” said Jason Chavez, a senior political science major at Virginia Tech and member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. “For too long, Indigenous Peoples have been relegated to being objects of the past. This move affirms our existence here at Virginia Tech and throughout the world by acknowledging that we are still here, and we are still thriving.”