BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Members of the Monacan Indian Nation — as well as a few other Native American tribes — gathered at Virginia Tech on Monday as a celebration rang throughout the campus, honoring those who came before on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
What is known now as the home of the Hokies was actually home to the Monocan Tribe thousands of years ago.
“If you know an indigenous person, you should call them up and say, ‘hey, Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day,’ like you would if it was their birthday, so that you can acknowledge that you know they are indigenous and that it is important to honor indigenous people,” said Victoria Ferguson, a Monacan Indian.
Ferguson says she hopes the teachings surrounding this day change because she feels that a lot of what is taught is exaggerated and romanticized. She is not the only person who feels that way.
On Monday, Oct. 11, members of the Monacan Indian Nation, Monacan Tribal Chief Kenneth Branham, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, and Dr. Henrietta Mann with the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes gathered to acknowledge the history of the Blacksburg campus.
A group of musicians called “The Red Fire Singers” also shared their knowledge about Indigenous People’s Day through drums. Many people danced on the Drillfield as the artists chanted Native American songs.
Students from the “Native at VT” organization say that days like this need to be commemorated.
“Maybe if we don’t realize it, we are standing on native land, and I feel like we need to do a better job of acknowledging that and creating an environment that is safe for indigenous people,” said Jacelyn Lazore, a member of the Mohawk Tribe and the treasurer of Native at VT.
Lazore says this day is a chance to celebrate and support someone who doesn’t get honored enough.
Meanwhile, Leilani Gantt — an Alaskan Native and President of “Native at VT” — feels that there should be courses at universities and colleges taught by indigenous people.
“Indigenous people hold the truth, and a lot of things are not written down in history,” Gantt said. “A lot of it is through stories being told, so a lot of it is through communication, gathering together, and speaking. That is how I learn most things about the culture.”
Virginia Tech ended Monday’s acknowledgment of Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the Moss Arts Center, where Cherokee actress DeLanna Studi was set to perform her one-woman play, “And So We Walked,” about her 900-mile journey along the Trail of Tears, retracing her great-grandparents’ path from the 1830s.
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