“As a Native child, I got two different stories,” Locklear said. “Public schools taught me that he discovered America and did all these great things and then my Native tribe told me otherwise.”
Instead of celebrating Columbus Day, many communities across the country and North Carolina celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day to honor Native American people.
Different student groups at UNC, including Carolina Indian Circle, typically celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day through live performances during an event held outside the Student Union.
However, due to COVID-19, Carolina Indian Circle made the decision to hold all events virtually this year. The virtual events included an Instagram takeover, virtual storytelling and music and dance presentations.
The group wanted to make sure the day wasn’t only about a celebration, but also ignited a fight for change in regard to recognition of the day by the University. To do so, the CIC is petitioning that UNC recognize Indigenous Peoples Day as a holiday. As of now, North Carolina and the city of Chapel Hill have already made the change.
Skylar Chavis, the president of Carolina Indian Circle and treasurer for Alpha Pi Omega, the University’s Native American sorority, said Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates Indigenous history and perseverance.
“Especially at Carolina, it’s a way for the Natives in Carolina Indian Circle, and even the Natives who aren’t in CIC, to celebrate being Native at a university that wasn’t created for us and wasn’t created for us to succeed,” Chavis said.
Daniel M. Cobb, a professor of American studies and the coordinator of American Indian and Indigenous studies at UNC, said the day is vitally important.
“It celebrates the survival and ongoing vitality of Indigenous languages, cultures, communities, land and policies, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds,” Cobb said.
For many, including Locklear and Chavis, this day isn’t only about recognition, but also respect for the Native American people. They hope if the day is recognized, people will take the time to learn more about it.
“I’ve gotten questions like, ‘Do you still live in a teepee?’” Locklear said. “… So just having a day, that’s only ours, will hopefully make people want to learn more about us.”