Laramie Indigenous Peoples Day

University of Wyoming student Jasmyne Cooper, center, joins UW student Jaida Cooper, left, and Juwan Willow of the Northern Arapaho Tribe during Monday’s protest against Columbus Day at Simpson Plaza on the UW campus. UW student organization Keepers of the Fire collaborated with the Native American Education Research and Cultural Center for the event that called for Columbus Day to be eliminated in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day.

Keepers of the Fire, a UW student organization, held a demonstration on campus Monday in support of native peoples and the movement to abolish Columbus Day — and to celebrate instead Indigenous People’s Day.

“Today we seek recognition that our people fought centuries, for generation after generation,” Juwan Willow of the Arapahoe Nation, said. “Equality must be fought for like that, because it is not won in a single generation — and we must not slide back into the old practices of yesterday.”

Students of indigenous ancestries stepped forward to speak greetings in their native languages and to share their native names and meanings, as opposed to their “government names.”

Willow, UW student and Keeper of the Fire’s treasurer, said these names are given to native people to guide them in life and are of deep significance, especially when spoken in their original language rather than translated into English. His own name, Looking For Songs, is properly spoken in Arapahoe. Some receive their names at birth, while others receive them from tribal elders later in life. Traditionally, a person’s name may change or they may have more than one, commemorating their achievements or personality as they grow in life.

As students and others spoke, they condemned the actions of Christopher Columbus after his arrival in the Bahamas and spoke of their hope for the future successes and impacts of the Indigenous People’s Day movement.

“We want our brothers and sisters to feel like they have hope,” Jaida Cooper, Red Cedars On The Ground, of the Crow Tribe, said. “We want our brothers and sisters to no longer feel like they have nothing to live for, we want our brothers and sisters to not commit suicide.”

Columbus, an Italian navigator, first set out from Spain in 1492 on a trade voyage to demonstrate that the world could be sailed around, and mistakenly called the Taino people of the Bahamas “Indians” after believing he had arrived in India.

“What exactly are we celebrating? A man that got lost for spices?” Christie Wildcat, Strong Heart Woman, said.

Columbus set about enslaving the people he encountered and paved the way for additional invasions of South and Central America from Spain, including Hernán Cortés’s war against the Aztecs in 1521 — and of the “New World” in general by other European cultures. One of Columbus’s journal entries from his initial arrival reads: “They were very well built, with very handsome bodies and very good faces. They do not carry arms [firearms] or know them... They should be good servants.”

“In 1492, Columbus was discovered by indigenous people. The indigenous people welcomed him, and in return he caused a mass genocide,” Cooper said.

Cooper and others wore “bloody hands” facepaint — red handprints symbolizing the suffering of indigenous women and children in particular.

“I ask you all to endeavor to learn more, and to connect with indigenous peoples,” Willow said. “My ancestors suffered through hell so that their children and their grandchildren would be here, and because of them I stand before you, alive.”

Toward the conclusion of the demonstration, Willow invited onlookers to join together “as indigenous people and as humans in general” in a round dance to traditional music.

Keepers of the Fire plans to hold more events in November, which is recognized as Native American Heritage Month.

“We want everyone to be included,” Willow said. “We want larger campus awareness about problems of minorities, and in particular about Native American problems in our community.”

(4) comments

Check of Reality

Unbelievable! What a slanted rewrite of history ignoring major facts. So why did these nomadic tribes not have guns or discover other continents? As a family losing kidnapped children to the peaceful tribes but then adopting in the next generation children of those tribes to succeed, maybe there is a more common peaceful way to proceed looking forward, not backwards? Polarizing and victim-hood does not solve anything.


Eh, no. Columbus was absolutely horrendous.

NOT glorifying him is definitely a good, peaceful, positive step forward for everybody.


The goal of liberalism is inclusion, not exclusion. With 365 days on our calendar, isn’t there enough room to designate 2 days to honor both Columbus and ‘native Americans’? Why must Columbus Day be abolished in order to recognize the Arapahoe Nation? Why must one ethnic group be destroyed in order to honor another one? That’s not ‘inclusive’ and surely not “liberal’. Why can’t the contributions to America of both Italians and Native Americans be recognized, each with an individual day? If we truly wish to take a “good, peaceful, positive step forward for everybody”, I suggest designating June 25 as “indigenous peoples day”. June 25, 1876 was the Battle of the Little Big Horn, a great day for the Sioux and Cheyenne.


Two days on a US calendar? We can think bigger than that. Rowman & Littleman's Chase's Calender of Events is for the whole world. Every nation in the word-- including indigenous tribes and nations within larger nations or territories-- can be included. Wyoming's Arapaho can be entered and recognized there. It does not matter how many entries per day are listed. Mind you, this has lovingly been called the Oxford Dictionary of events and holidays and other favorable terms. These praises are not for British-ness but for comprehensiveness and inclusiveness. I say, it might be time for the Wyoming Arapaho (and other people groups) to be in Chase's.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.