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The University of Alaska Fairbanks will celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time with a community celebration from 3-9 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 9, at the Fairbanks campus.
Resolutions from students, staff and faculty groups across the University of Alaska system have unanimously supported recognizing “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Each campus will host a culturally relevant event incorporating elements of the indigenous history of place, culture and language associated with their regions.
“Indigenous Peoples Day honors Alaska Native people, culture and knowledge,” said Evon Peter, UAF’s vice chancellor of rural, community and Native education. “The unanimous support for this special day acknowledges how the contributions of Alaska Native peoples and indigenous knowledge enhance education provided by the University of Alaska.”
UAF festivities kick off at 3 p.m. with a recognition of Denaa lands at the future site of an indigenous studies center in Troth Yeddha’ Park, across from the UA Museum of the North. The celebration continues at 4 p.m. at the Wood Center with a welcome message and panel discussion in the multilevel lounge. Alaska Native dance performances will take place at 6:30 and 8 p.m., and there will be a screening of the film “Kiuguyat: The Northern Lights” at 5:30 p.m. At 6 p.m., light refreshments will be served. Informational and artisan vendor tables will be open throughout the celebration.
Earlier this year, the Alaska Legislature passed HB 78, which permanently established the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day. Gov. Bill Walker signed the legislation into law in June. Alaska joined several states and dozens of municipalities and universities that voted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day.
In 1992, Berkeley, California, became the first place in the country to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. The holiday was a way to bring awareness to the genocide and atrocities inflicted upon Native Americans by European colonization. The first celebration coincided with the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the New World.
“Indigenous Peoples Day is a way for Alaskans to acknowledge that we are not ignorant of history, forced assimilation and the injustice inflicted upon first peoples,” said Sean Asiqłuq Topkok, an assistant professor at the UAF School of Education and member of the celebration planning committee. “It’s also a step forward toward healing the trauma from colonization that still persists today. For the University of Alaska, this holiday celebrates diversity and the distinct indigenous cultures and traditions that help make one Alaska.”