2021.05.26.EMG.WSG.IndigenousStudiesMajor-1.jpg

The Many Nations Longhouse, located on the University of Oregon campus, serves as a meeting place for Indigenous/Native American students at UO. The UO Senate and Board of Trustees have approved a new Bachelors of Arts degree in Native American and Indigenous Studies. (Will Geschke/Emerald)

Oregon officially recognized its first Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the place of Columbus Day today. The state will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of October going forward. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the declaration into law on May 18 after the Oregon Senate's affirmative vote. Brown spoke about the importance of recognizing the history of the state’s lands in a statement this morning. 

“Oregon’s historical treatment of Indigenous people is stained by racism, discrimination, forced removal and violence,” Brown said. “We cannot change that past — but we can work together to dismantle the legacies of colonialism and racism just as they were built, brick by brick.”

Brown said today is dedicated to paying respects to Oregon’s nine federally-recognized tribes — the Burns Paiute of Harney County, the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, the ​​Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians, the Coquille Indian Tribe and the Klamath Tribes — and honoring their ancestral homelands. The official recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Oregon adds the state to a list of nine others that also celebrate the holiday. 

In recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, UO’s Native American Student Union hosted a flag raising ceremony of Oregon’s nine federally-recognized tribes in the EMU amphitheater. This ceremony has occurred annually each October since 2014, when a group of students initially installed the nine flagpoles with the goal to increase the presence of Indigenous people on the university campus.

During the first flag-raising in the EMU amphitheater seven years ago, former Many Nations Longhouse steward Gordon Bettles said that through this gesture of flying sovereign flags, the relationship between the university and the nine tribes can only strengthen. 

“As a flagship university, we should be setting an example for the other universities,” Bettles said in 2014. “There are other things that can be built from this.”

Brown said her statement serves as a reminder for today and every day going forward: “No matter where you are in Oregon today, remember, you are on Indigenous land.”