Indigenous Peoples’ Day at UNCP


Chancellor Cummings addressing the crowd gathered outside the University Center to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. Gov. Roy Cooper signed a proclamation in 2018 recognizing Indigenous People’s Day in North Carolina as the second Monday in October. Photo/Willis Glassgow

By: Daria Parker

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke acknowledged Native Americans by celebrating the achievements and the progress made within recent years. October 11 was recently proclaimed by President Joe Biden as Indigenous Peoples Day. This day is also the federal holiday known as Columbus Day.

The focus of the day on campus was to acknowledge the proclamation made to honor Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the histories and cultures of all Indigenous people.

With UNCP’s unique history and ties to the Lumbee community, UNCP proudly celebrates the resiliency of Indigenous populations. Proving that Indigenous peoples are still alive and should no longer be romanticized by the general public.

“With a very high American Indian population, the highest in the UNC system, we are going to adopt and celebrate this day, Indigenous Peoples Day,” said Ashley McMillan, American Indian Liason to the Chancellor and Director of the American Indian Heritage Center.

“I think it’s a very significant and sentinel way that we can respect and acknowledge the history of the University and its beginnings,” Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings said. “In a small way pay honor to those people who were bold and courageous enough to do what they did back in 1887,” Cummings said.

In 1887, Croatan Normal School was established by Representative Hamilton McMillian of Robeson County, this was enacted by the General Assembly of North Carolina. Croatan Normal School was established to train American Indian teachers. The school opened in 1888 with 15 students. Over 100 years later, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke offers an education to all who want the opportunity to achieve higher education.

“Every university wants to have something that defines them. We are a very diverse campus, and I am proud of that but what we can hold up is that unique heritage,” Cummings said. “There is no other university in the United States that can say that. We are the only 4-year accredited public university that was started by American Indians specifically to educate American Indians.”

That is why Indigenous Peoples Day is an important day to set aside and acknowledge the work and dedication that was made to have the University that we have today.

“This significance of this day means a lot of things to me. Resilience for one, because it shows that all that our people have experienced throughout history, we are still standing today. We are still here and proud,” said James Bullard.

Chairman of NC Communications of Indian Affairs and Speaker of Lumbee Tribes, Ricky Burnett said seeing the university from what it was, to where it is now, means a lot. Native Americans
have been challenged by society over the years.

Since Columbus Day was recognized as a federal holiday in 1934, Indigenous populations have reclaimed the day to show America that Indigenous populations are alive and well.

Chief Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba virtually contributed to the day by having a zoom seminar on the United States Policy and Indigenous People: Why Trust and Treaty Obligations Matter. In this seminar she discussed the different policies gone into play that can be detrimental to the Native American community.
North Carolina is one of 10 states in the nation that observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day via proclamation.

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