Fort Lewis College honored its Indigenous students, staff, and faculty on Indigenous Peoples' Day on October 10, 2022. The FLC community recognized Indigenous peoples' enduring power and cultural significance as well as the impacts of settler colonialism. The theme for this year was “Healing Our Communities,” which touched on FLC’s ongoing reconciliation with its origin as a Federal Indian Boarding School.
“Indigenous Peoples’ Day should be observed across the United States,” said Rexine Williams, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and academic support coordinator for the Native American Center. “We should celebrate Indigenous peoples every day, though, not just today. It’s important that people understand how resilient we are, that we’re still here.”
That sentiment is especially true at FLC, a Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institution (NASNTI), where Indigenous students make up 44% of the student body and represent 184 Tribal Nations and Alaska Native Villages.
Celebrations lasted all day with Indigenous crafts workshops, a solidarity walk, an Indigenous food circle, and Native Olympic Games. Indigenous FLC community members were encouraged to wear their cultural attire and bring traditional meals to the food circle.
The evening concluded with a social dance with nearly 200 students, elders, children, and community members in attendance at the Student Union Ballroom. Indigenous families from around the Southwest and beyond showed up in droves to watch the beautiful performances and participate in the contests.
Organizing the numerous events took three months to plan between organizations on campus like the American Indigenous Business Leaders, Pueblo Alliance, Native American Center, Center of Southwest Studies, and Wanbli Ota. The events provided an opportunity for Indigenous FLC community members to connect with each other and their cultures in a safe space.
“I think our students enjoyed the day,” Williams said. “It is crucial that we gather as a community and reflect on how best to serve them.”
At FLC, the festivities didn’t end after the social dance. Indigenous Peoples’ Day marked the beginning of Indigenous Peoples’ Week, a series of self-participation events like Rock Your Mocs Monday and Wear Red Wednesday.
Throughout the week, the theme of healing and community resonated across campus.
"We should celebrate Indigenous peoples every day, though, not just today. It’s important that people understand how resilient we are, that we’re still here"
“This year, we want to do something different and hone in on what it means to heal our communities,” said Shasta Hampton, a citizen of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the engagement program coordinator for the Native American Center.
“Dancing, eating, and laughing together help us heal from generational trauma and shape our past, present, and future.”