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Jack Zietman / Senior staff photographer

Though Columbus Day is just a normal Monday for Columbia, students took to College Walk for protests—and hamburgers. As members of the Native American Council and Latino outreach group Lucha held separate activist events, the Columbia University College Republicans threw their annual barbecue to "celebrate the day we should have off," said Lauren Salz, BC '11 and CU Republicans chair. Though the University does not officially recognize Columbus Day as a holiday, students from the Native American Council assembled for the fourth year in a row on Low Plaza to lobby for a school-wide celebration of Indigenous People's Day. Club leaders John Haney and Halley Hair, both CC '11, said they hoped to spread awareness about issues surrounding indigenous groups in the Americas. NAC members spelled out "Indigenous People's Day" along the right-hand wall facing Low Library in mock "Wanted" posters for Christopher Columbus. The posters accused Columbus of grand theft, genocide, racism, and "initiating the destruction of a culture." "This is not meant to be a day of anger, more of a day of celebration and awareness," Haney said, noting that he wanted to turn the holiday into a day of remembrance. Haney and Hair also distributed informational fliers and gave passersby red ribbons to wear on their upper arms in solidarity with the cause. Leah Curtis, GS, said she identifies her heritage as Mohawk, a tribe from upstate New York and Canada, and was less than thrilled about Columbus Day as an institution. "I'm not a fan. I think it's unfortunate that they opt to celebrate someone who's responsible for so much genocide and torture," she said, adding that she was interested in the vigil NAC planned on holding later that night. Cara Buchanan, CC '11, recently got involved with NAC. "My background is Mayan-Mexican," she said. "So native in a separate, unique way." She found the Columbus Day question particularly relevant to Columbia. "I think that, of course we have the Core at Columbia, and history is definitely taught a certain way, and it doesn't always look at the sources and where we're getting our history from," she said. "So it's important to have days like Indigenous People's Day because we need to bring awareness to the fact that in elementary and middle and high school, we're taught that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and came in 1492 to conquer the new land, and we're never taught to critically examine whose 'truth' that narrative tells." Hair said that Columbia has not met her expectations in bringing Native-American events into the public eye, and that she's also trying to raise enthusiasm for Native American Heritage month in November. Meanwhile, activist group Lucha raised a partition structure in the middle of Low Plaza to protest American immigration policies. "So much of U.S. money is funneled into building these walls, and the outcomes are ineffective and negative. It forces those to cross the border to do so by unsafe means," said Malena Arnaud, BC '11 and one of the leaders of Lucha. Commenting on the injurious effect of American media, Arnaud said she believes that the media negatively portrays immigrants in an unfortunate and distressing way. "They talk about illegals and aliens, and there is something fundamentally wrong with that. The media is to blame for lots of hate that is going on," she said. Although they were not affiliated with the other Columbus Day activities, Lucha had previously postponed their event due to rain. They planned to co-host the Monday night vigil with NAC. The College Republicans took advantage of the warm weather to host their annual barbecue on Van Am Quad, and handed out free food throughout. Salz said that she witnessed this tradition during her visit to Columbia as a junior in high school, and wanted to carry on the tradition during her time at the University. Salz acknowledged the other events, but said the barbecue was not meant to run counter to them. "We are not in opposition to the other groups. We support their right to celebrate their causes," Salz said. "We are simply using Columbus Day as a good excuse to have a holiday and eat good food." news@columbiaspectator.com

Native American Council Lucha cu republicans Columbus Day
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