Indigenous History at Syracuse University
By John Perik
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Monday is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a day to commemorate the histories and cultures of Native Americans. Indigenous members of the Syracuse University community shared what the holiday means to them.
Eiza Capton, a member of Indigenous Students at Syracuse, said that the holiday had been a day of remembrance since her childhood. “Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a time where I can be proud of my heritage and my roots,” said Capton. “It’s a time where I can pay homage to those who died from mass genocide.”
Capton asks that students educate themselves on Christopher Columbus to understand the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day fully. “Columbus was an absolutely horrible person,” said Capton. “He was a sick human being and a murderer.”
Neal Powless, Syracuse University Ombuds, asks students who know little about the holiday to stay open and commit to learning about indigenous peoples’ history. According to Powless, Syracuse University’s land was first owned by the Onondaga nation and then illegally acquired following a treaty agreement.
Over the past year, the University committed to recognizing Indigenous students on campus. In August, SU announced plans to raise the Haudenosaunee flag at the National Veterans Resource Center. They also announced that they would add the Onondaga Haudenosaunee language greeting to the Huntington Beard Crouse Hall signage and renovate the Native Student Program at 113 Euclid Ave.
The University recently revealed a new monument of the Haudenosaunee flag located on the SU quad. The monument is intended to acknowledge Syracuse University’s relationship with the Onondaga Nation and recognize its presence on ancestral land.
Powless said the University should be commended for their effort, but it’s still not enough. “What are they really teaching the kids if they are not teaching about this culture,” said Powless. “Fellow students can walk through the campus and have no idea what Indigenous means.”