Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A very Carleton Indigenous Peoples’ Day

To any of you who know me well, one of the first things that usually comes up about me is that I’m a proudly enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (Oglala Lakota Oyate). I come from a long line of proudly enrolled tribal members, I participate in tribal politics and I’m a proud member of the Carleton Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance. Carleton is located on Dakota land, it’s a total of 33 miles from the Prairie Island Indian Community, and the administration has even put out a land acknowledgement. So any reasonably astute student at Carleton would probably ask what seems like a straightforward question: “why aren’t there more indigenous students?” Sure, some of us blend in due to us being very white passing, but the total numbers on indigenous students at Carleton remain abysmal. Carleton has an unwelcoming environment for indigenous students at best, and a hostile environment at worst. 

This past Monday at Carleton marked Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday meant to commemorate the rich history of American Indians, Alaska Natives and other First Peoples who currently inhabit the United States. For many non-native people, this is just another day of the year, but for indigenous people, it means so much more than that. For one day each year, it feels like we get acknowledgement of our existence, an acknowledgement of our right to exist. And yet, Carleton, both the administration and the community, seems not to care. When it feels like part of your identity gets acknowledged for a singular day a year by a country filled with settlers who are here on your land, every little thing matters.

This Monday I noticed things that irked me, but what irked me the most is the lack of good faith commitment on the part of Carleton. Carleton, the administration and the student body, may claim to want to create a better environment for native students or that they want to acknowledge the injustices they’ve committed, but at Carleton it feels like the lack of action taken by Carleton deafens the whitewashed memos and acknowledgement. Indigenous Peoples’ Day matters, and the actions that you take matters, especially what you call it. Many people may not have noticed that several official memos, calendars and other documents sent out by Carleton classified Monday as “Columbus Day.” I will admit that when I saw this I was a little taken aback. I never grew up with Columbus Day. My home state, South Dakota, had replaced Columbus Day with Native American day long before I was born. So you can imagine my shock when I saw that South Dakota, a state with a longer history of colonization and genocide that just about any other state in the nation, seemed to be doing better than an institution that claims to pride itself on its inclusion. 

One of the most egregious problems that occurred this year was the reliance that the administration had on IPA doing work for the administration on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The administration came to IPA asking us to run ceremonies for the community when we wanted to work primarily within our own community, not with the larger Carleton Community. It is not the job of an organization whose designated purpose is to provide a safe environment for indigenous students to educate people who are not part of that community.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that Carleton has asked IPA for free labor. Last year, when Carleton was working on the housing plan, the Housing Plan Committee asked IPA for some consultation surrounding our house. We asked for reasonable requests such as a place for smudging, it to be outdoors and for it to be designed by a Dakota architect. Though some of these requests were listened to, others (primarily the last) were completely ignored. There might be people who argue that it’s in fact IPA’s job to help consult Carleton on matters concerning indigenous students. The problem with this line of logic is that it’s completely unreasonable for two reasons. 

Firstly, we’re students and the administration is running a facility on stolen land. Why is it our job to make sure you don’t do a terrible job? As students, we shouldn’t have to babysit you to make you feel like you’ve atoned for being on said stolen land. Secondly, (and I can’t stress this enough) none of us are Dakota. If you truly care about acknowledging Carleton’s racist colonialist history, maybe you should make sure that Carleton has some students who are a part of the community that you were complicit in decimating. I’m not Dakota. This land is not mine, my people were on land far from here. As such, I recognize that this is not my land. If you care about creating an environment where you recognize that you are on land that was stewarded for generations by a people, maybe you should try getting more of those people to Carleton. I want to make sure that my message here is not misconstrued. My problem with Carleton’s actions towards Indigenous people on this campus extends far beyond what happened during Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Indeed, it feels like the day highlighted Carleton’s relationship with Indigenous students. I can think of no better description of Carleton’s relationship with its native students than what transpired on monday. Carleton has created an environment where they ask native students to do the work for them to assuage their settler guilt, don’t do the suggestions we provide, and pat themselves on the back for doing the bare minimum (if they did anything at all). 

With all of this said, it’s easy for this to look like someone is just harassing the administration with no actual solutions to this clear problem, the following is a list of demands that IPA (and myself) have to the administration. 

  1. An Indigenous house for indigenous students exclusively 
  2. An Indigenous house designed by a Dakota architect 
  3. Subsidized (ideally entirely) tuition for Dakota students
  4. More courses on indigenous literature, tribal politics, and other native adjacent subjects
  5. More outreach to indigenous students
  6. Removing the term “Columbus Day” from any campus material
  7. More consultation with Marcy Averill, the Indigenous student liaison
  8. Carleton facilitated Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrations that don’t rely on IPA doing the bulk of the work
  9. Closer ties with the Prairie Island Indian Community
  10. More outreach to professors about students missing class for religious obligations
  • Bax “where’s our house Dean Livingston?” Meyer
Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Bax Meyer, News Editor
Hey, all! I'm Bax (he/him), and I'm a junior Econ major with a Middle East Studies minor. I love talking about Middle East politics and American Indian Treaty Rights. I'll always send you good book or movie recomendations. You can probably find me on campus wandering the arb, on 1st libe, or at step areobics. I like dad jokes, American Indian Treaty Rights, shawarma, and publishing my hot takes in the Carletonian anonymously.
Red flags: econ major, will judge you for using the Oxford comma, and hates geese
Green flags: Middle East Studies minor, still uses the Oxford comma, and quotes the Star Wars prequels on the daily
Subscribe to the Carletonian newsletter for the best email sign-offs at Carleton
Bax was previously a Viewpoint Editor.

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *