In a statement against the celebration of Columbus Day, members of the Native American Sisterhood Alliance hung signs and posters around campus on Monday morning linking Christopher Columbus to the genocide of Native American people.
With phrases like “Warning: You are now on Indian land,” and “Asking Native Americans to celebrate Columbus Day is like asking Americans to celebrate Osama Bin Laden Day,” the posters were taped onto walls and doorways, left on outdoor tables and affixed to wooden stakes driven into campus lawns. Most of the signs were stamped with red handprints.
According to senior and Alliance member Alyssa Contreras, the signs were erected to remind students that the ground “was and still is native land,” and the hand prints served to “symbolize the genocide and murder that resulted from colonization.”
Contreras said that Columbus was responsible for opening up the Americas and its indigenous peoples to centuries of brutalization and degradation by European powers.
Contreras was one of several Mills students of indigenous heritage to protest Columbus Day and celebrate its alternative, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, by attending an annual sunrise ceremony at Alcatraz Island on Monday morning. The ceremony, founded by the International Indian Treaty Council, was also established to commemorate the occupation of Alcatraz by Native American activists in 1969, according to junior ethnic studies major and Alliance member Esther Lucero.
Lucero said that when she made the trip to Alcatraz, she thought about the Native people who often faced terrors at the hands of colonizers. “What we’re doing today is just a small way to honor them,” she said.
Organizers said that several of their signs were removed from the oval and from in front of the library. Lucero that she suspected an administration official had removed the signs in connection with the Undergraduate Admissions Open House that was scheduled to occur the same day. Administration officials could not be reached to confirm these reports.
Some students, like first-year post-bac pre-med student Liz Samuels, were excited to see the signs up. “I’m pretty removed in the pre-med program from things that happen on campus, and this is one of the first displays that really caught my attention and reminded me that there are people who are at Mills who take their own liberation very seriously, and I really support that.” Samuels said that while rumors of the administration removing signs disturbed her, she was also “glad that we don’t celebrate Columbus Day” as a school.
Junior Tina Sogliuzzo, member of Mouthing Off, said that if she saw these signs up when she was a prospective student, she would think she was entering a school where “people are willing to speak their minds.”
Contreras agreed. “I would think it was awesome. It’s representative of what Mills is and what we as students are capable of bringing to the forefront.”