Pullman celebrates Native culture

City now celebrates Oct. 8 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day



Faith Price, Native American Programs assistant director, left, and MyKel Johnson, senior communication major, right, educate students about Native American history Monday on Glenn Terrell Friendship Mall.

ANGELICA RELENTE, Evergreen editor-in-chief

Ku-Ah-Mah and the Native American Women’s Association hosted an Indigenous Peoples’ Day gathering at Todd Steps on Monday to memorialize the culture of Native people and celebrate Pullman’s official switch from Columbus Day.

Joelle Edwards, Native American Programs retention specialist, said there are about 600 students that identify as Native American on campus. Edwards said the event is a way to give back to Native communities and make it known that Native people are still present.

A tipi was set up along Todd Steps, which involved numerous poles propped up against each other and wrapped with a large piece of canvas. Edwards said it took about an hour to make.

“We’ve never put it up for the whole campus to see,” she said.

There was also an interactive trivia wheel for students which included questions like naming famous indigenous people or naming different tribes. The purpose of the trivia wheel was to help participants learn more about Native Americans and their culture that they might not know.

During the event, Mary Jo Gonzales, vice president of Student Affairs, officiated a proclamation signed by President Kirk Schulz to commemorate Oct. 8 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Edwards said this was the first time they hosted an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration. She said they plan on doing something more educational and celebratory next year.

“This year we really wanted to get the word out there that this is a thing,” Edwards said.

CarlaDean Caldera, Northern Paiute tribe member, was present during the event and said it is important to celebrate Oct. 8 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, not Columbus Day.

“All this past history with Columbus being the founder of this world and whatnot is not right,” Caldera said. “It’s good that things are getting turned around.”

Dallas Winishut, member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, said it is important to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“All the presidents that we battled [in] the United States [have] really infringed on our sovereignty,” Winishut said. “That’s important to all the indigenous people of the land.”

Ku-Ah-Mah also partnered with Hillside Cafe to offer an indigenous feast for students and faculty. Bison burgers, Indian tacos and huckleberry butter were a few of the items offered at Hillside, Ku-Ah-Mah secretary Kerah Iyall said.

“We tried to pull from many different Native tribes, not just what’s local here,” she said. “We also pulled from coastal tribes [and] East Coast tribes.”

MyKel Johnson, ambassador of the Native American Women’s Association, said Indigenous Peoples’ Day has never been officially recognized in her whole college career.

“As a university that claims diversity, inclusivity and all these other things,” Johnson said, “it’s so important because territorially, my people are from here.”

She said she is a descendant of Old Chief Joseph, the historic leader of the Nez Perce tribe. As Johnson discussed the recognition of Indigenous peoples and their history, she began to tear up.

“I had to fight for my identity,” she said. “I had to stand up to professors and my peers and educate them on issues that an indigenous woman goes through.”

Johnson said she considers this event as something symbolic and hopes the university will continue in the steps taken to recognizing indigenous peoples.

“I’ve been through so much at this university from racism and marginalization,” Johnson said. “We’re so welcoming to others — to finally be welcomed back is amazing.”