Haskell students want Columbus Day renamed

Lawrence, Kansas (AP) 10-07

Students at Haskell Indian Nations University have long objected to annual observations of Columbus Day, and now they would like the City Commission to rename the holiday.

Members of the university’s American Indians Studies Club want the commission to designate the holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Haskell students had a demonstration and march on October to draw attention to the issue.

The event started at noon at South Park, near the Douglas County Courthouse, and included a march to the Haskell campus.

Willow Bonga, a Haskell student and club member, said Columbus Day “is in essence celebrating our genocide instead of celebrating our survival.”

“It was a time when it decimated our populations and brought the natives to the ground,” she told the Lawrence Journal-World. “It only was by our pure strength that we were able to rise up and still be in existence today.”

Mayor Sue Hack said she respects the students’ views, but she said it is an issue probably better handled by state legislators.

“I think you are exactly right about the history,” Hack told students during the City Commission meeting. “But our policy has been to not use proclamations to make a political stand or do something that the state should change.”

Commissioner Boog Highberger, however, said he was in favor of adopting a proclamation changing the name. In 1992, the city declared it American Indian Day, but the tradition didn’t stick.

“I think the history of what happened to native people is a story that doesn’t get told well enough,” Highberger said. “I know how those of us in Lawrence would feel if someone were celebrating William Quantrill Day.”

Quantrill was the Confederate guerrilla leader who led a sack of Lawrence during the Civil War.

On the Net:

City of Lawrence: http://www.lawrenceks.org/

Haskell Indian Nations University:

Information from: Lawrence Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com