by Christina Mehr
Indigenous Peoples Week kicked off on the Cal Poly Humboldt Quad Oct. 9 with a drum circle and mesmerizing rhythms echoing through the crowd. Participants of the drum circle beat their non-traditional drums and sang together, creating harmonies connected with the spirit. The beating of the drums mimicked the heartbeat of Mother Earth as it began to rain. According to the people in celebration, the sounds of the drums and vocals are used to heal, restore balance and improve people’s mood. The goal of the week is to embrace the rich cultures of Indigenous people and to honor the resilience, tradition and history.
Throughout the week, a variety of events and discussions for both staff and students to participate in were hosted by the The Indian Tribal & Education Personnel Program (ITEPP). ITEPP has been supporting students for more than 50 years.
The celebration included traditional card game demos, an Inuit film “Slash/Back” showing and more. These activities offer not only a way for native people to connect with each other, but with the earth, and with their ancestors. The celebration included speakers such as Dr. Kaitlin Reed, who discussed decolonization and her new book, “Settler Cannabis, From Gold Rush to Green Rush in Indigenous Northern California.”
Indigenous Peoples Day is held in high esteem for those on campus and in the Humboldt community. The ITEPP program at Cal Poly Humboldt provides Native American students a sense of belonging that’s centered around cultural values, beliefs and traditions. The program also assists students in navigating higher education with confidence and a sense of independence.
“I want you all to erase a couple words from your vocabulary,” said Vincent Feliz, a lecturer in the department of social work. “Stop using them. Words like discovered, founded and settled. Indigenous people never needed to be discovered, we never needed to be founded, we never needed to be settled. A lot of us already had government systems set up, languages, structures and ceremonial rites of passage that were established.”
The week brought community members a chance to raise awareness and encourage understanding about Indigenous history.
Ted Hernandez, the Cultural Director and Chairman for the Wiyot Tribe, spoke at the drum circle in the Quad at the beginning of the week.
“There was a lot of damage done to our tribes that are in this area, not just this area, but all over the United States,” Hernandez said. “And it’s time that we start telling each other the true history. Its time for us to start talking about the genocide that happened to our people. It’s time for us to let the world know what happened.”