FAIRBANKS — The University of Alaska Fairbanks is hosting its inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day celebration from 3-9 p.m Monday. This event was brought about by resolutions from students, staff and faculty across the university system and was approved by UA President Jim Johnsen earlier this fall.
“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.”
This newly adopted celebration at the university follows in the footsteps of a bill passed earlier this year by the Legislature that permanently establishes the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day, replacing the former holiday recognizing Christopher Columbus. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signed the bill into law in June.
Event organizers said the celebration is meant to recognize the important role indigenous cultures have played and continue to play in Alaska’s history and modern life.
Sean Asiqłuq Topkok, an assistant professor at the UAF School of Education and member of the celebration planning committee, said the celebration is also a way to remember the history of indigenous cultures, both good and bad.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Events will begin at 3 p.m Monday with a blessing at the Troth Yeddha’ Park, named for the ridge on which the Fairbanks campus sits and the future site of an Indigenous studies center.
Activities will continue at 4 p.m. in the Wood Center with dancing, informational booths, artisan sales and presentations from faculty, staff and community members.
Contact staff writer Erin Granger at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMPolitics.