Honoring Indigenous Peoples' Day

October 11, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

We celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day to recognize and honor Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Indigenous people across the Americas and the globe, centering on the resilience of Native people and recognizing the persistence of culture and community despite the deeply painful and harmful impacts of colonialism. The day has increasingly become a time to celebrate the resistance to assimilation and lift up the thriving Indigenous cultures and peoples that remain rooted to Indigneous land. 

The city of Berkeley was the first in the U.S. to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992, a gesture of solidarity with Indigenous people, and resistance to Columbus Day, and the dominant version of history that celebrates the colonization of the Americas. Today fourteen states, the District of Columbia, and over 130 cities celebrate the holiday. 2021 is the first year that a President has issued a proclamation for a national Indigenous Peoples' Day October 11th is also National Coming Out Day, an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the intersectional relationship of our two communities and the contemporary and historical experiences of LGBTQ+ people in Native and Indigenous communities

Indigenous resistance has been a significant, although not always recognized, part of UC Berkeley’s history. The 18-month occupation of Alcatraz in 1969 by Native American activists began with students from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, including two who would become leaders in the occupation: LaNada War Jack (Shoshone Bannock) of UC Berkeley and Richard Oakes (Mohawk Nation) of San Francisco State University. The Third World Liberation Front Movement in 1969 bore the development of Ethnic Studies and the creation of one of the first Native American Studies departments in the country.

In celebrating and honoring Indigenous resistance, it is important we also see it in the present and not only in the past. The Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival is a California tribal-centered non-profit that works to provide access and opportunities for Indigenous California language reclamation and revitalization. 

On our own campus, faculty and staff work diligently to create opportunities for Indigenous people. The Designated Emphasis (DE) in Language Revitalization enables interested graduate students already enrolled in UC Berkeley Ph.D. programs to specialize and obtain certification in language revitalization while pursuing a doctoral degree in their home departments. Professor Beth Piatote (Ni:mi:pu: (Nez Perce)) was crucial to the development of the DE. Professor Shari Huhndorf (Yup’ik) chairs the Native American Graves and Repatriation Committee for the Smithsonian Institution, working to support the repatriation of ancestors and funerary objects to tribes from the largest Native American remains in the country. These are only two of the people on our campus who weave the spirit of Indigenous People’s Day into their work.

Today is an opportunity to celebrate the vibrant Indigenous communities that flourish around the world, and with the strong historical connections to Indigenous People’s Day, the Bay Area has many opportunities to do so. For over 30 years, the International Indian Treaty Council has organized the annual Sunrise Gathering at Alcatraz to highlight Indigenous resistance and raise awareness of the fight for recognition and protection of Indigenous rights, Treaties, traditional cultures, and sacred lands. The city of Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples' Day Pow Wow is a celebration of the adoption of the holiday, which has continued for nearly 30 years. 

We encourage you to use this day as a time to pause, reflect, and learn more through professional development about the importance of this holiday. A few ways you can do that is by acknowledging the land that Berkeley sits on - the territory of Huichin, the ancestral and unceded land of the Chochenyo speaking Ohlone people. Read the UC Berkeley Land Acknowledgment developed in partnership with Native communities and learn more about how and why we use land acknowledgments.

We hope you will find time to reflect on the importance and meaning of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the diversity of communities it honors.

With you,

Dania Matos, J.D. (she/her/ella)Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion

Phenocia Bauerle (she/her/hers, they/them/theirs)Director, Native American Student Development

Margaret Hunter, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)Senior Director, Centers for Educational Justice & Community Engagement

Stephen C. Sutton, Ed.D. (he/his/him)
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Division of Equity & Inclusion