From the State News:
For many people, Columbus Day is a time to celebrate the discovery of America. For Native Americans, the day is a time to remember the lives that were lost after America was founded.
The North American Indigenous Student Organization held a candlelight vigil at the rock on Farm Lane on Monday to honor the memory of Native Americans who suffered.
In previous years, NAISO has held a parade or a rally around campus, but this year, the organization wanted to do something more and thought a candlelight vigil would be more meaningful and impactful, said Melissa Beard, public relations chairperson of NAISO.
“It’s a way to honor all of our ancestors and the millions of Native Americans that were killed and to show that Native Americans don’t really consider Columbus Day an honorable day,” Beard said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize what (Columbus) really took away when he discovered America. It was almost like the downfall of our culture from that day on.”
Matthew Fletcher, an associate law professor, was a guest speaker at the event. Fletcher spoke about the history Native Americans and of their experiences in Michigan during the past 100 years.
“When you celebrate Columbus Day, what you’re really celebrating is genocide,” he said. “(I wanted) to emphasize that this day is about the restoration of rights and capacities of Indigenous people.”
Elizabeth Deneau, co-chairperson of NAISO, said she hopes community members and students left the vigil with an understanding of Columbus Day and realize there were already cultures established when Columbus came to America.
“It means a lot to me (to participate) because there are so few Native Americans left because of everything that’s happened over time,” Deneau said. “Doing things like this helps preserve the culture and show people that there are still Native Americans. We’re just trying to show our culture to others in a respectful way.”