ODI Updates

Honor and Recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day

Posted by Natasha Martin, VP for Diversity and Inclusion and Dr. Christina Roberts on Monday, October 12, 2020 at 10:57 AM PDT

Honor and Recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day

Dear Seattle University Community,

Today, Seattle University marks the significance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a day to honor and celebrate Indigenous peoples and to acknowledge the toil of colonization as reflected by the land we occupy as a university. We recognize that we reside on occupied Coast Salish lands and Seattle University is on the homelands of the Duwamish people. We pay respect to Coast Salish Elders past and present and extend that respect to their descendants and to all Indigenous people.

The origin of Indigenous Peoples’ Day reaches back to 1977 and the first International NGO Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, and beginning in 1991, many cities began a movement to recognize and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day and as a step toward recognizing the harmful legacies of the doctrine of discovery and North American colonization. In 2014 and as a direct result of community activism, the City of Seattle declared the second Monday in October Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and Seattle University officially adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2016. We celebrate and recognize that a changing the name of one day cannot fully address historical wrongs or adequately honor the gifts and contributions of Indigenous peoples. Yet, it remains an important step in changing our orientation to our shared history.

As an educational institution with a Jesuit Catholic ethos, we are on a journey to understand and reconcile a range of atrocities of colonization and their lasting impacts. Thus, we must embrace a fuller narrative of the history and cultural features that continue to thwart full actualization of Indigenous people and deprive all of us of the rich heritage and gifts that come through full inclusion of students, faculty, and staff of Indigenous descent. We recognize the leadership of Dr. Christina Roberts (Aaniiih and Nakoda), Director of the Indigenous Peoples Institute, and the many ways in which she has elevated the experiences of our Indigenous communities and built avenues for belonging and thriving for our students.

Over the years, we have worked to deepen our relationship to Indigenous Peoples by learning about and celebrating the many contributions of Coast Salish peoples. For example, in 2018, we deepened understanding by offering as the university’s common text, Harriette Shelton Dover’s Tulalip, from My Heart, and celebrating Vi Hilbert taqwšǝblu, a revered Upper Skagit woman and the namesake for our shared ethnobotanical garden and the newest residence hall on campus. Each year, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion includes in its inclusive excellence summer reading list texts by talented Indigenous writers as a small way to expose our community to the tapestry of talent and creative works. This year’s offerings included An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo (the first Native American Poet Laureate, 2019). Significantly, our students recently had an opportunity to attend the first annual IPI-sponsored event, “Honoring Indigenous Voices.” This year’s theme – “Navigating intergenerational trauma on the way home” – and the event was designed and led by a current Indigenous student in the College of Nursing, Misty Louie (Apsaalooke/Ktunaxa, class of 2021). Learn more here

In 2017, Seattle University’s Indigenous Peoples Institute, under the guidance of Dr. Roberts and Fr. Patrick Twohy, S.J., collaborated with Campus Ministry to co-create language that can be used to recognize the history and people, lands and waters of this Duwamish dxʷdəwʔabš aboriginal territory. This statement is often used in our community to open campus events, meetings, classes, and other gatherings.  Dr. Roberts recently updated the statement which was shared to open the university’s Celebration of Spirit last month. In the words of Dr. Roberts, the statement offers a way for “our community to recognize this land and our histories; to honor the Indigenous people past and present who belong to these places; and to have common and consistent language for our events and ceremonies that is crafted with care and wisdom.”

As we begin [name of event/gathering], I (we) invite us all to respectfully acknowledge that our campus is on occupied Coast Salish land, specifically the homelands of the Duwamish people.  

To acknowledge this land is to recognize the history and legacy of settler colonialism; it is to recognize these lands, waters, and their significance for the peoples who have thrived in this region despite the consequences of displacement and broken treaties. 

Let us take a moment to pause and pay our respects to Coast Salish Elders past and present and extend that respect to their descendants and to all Indigenous people.

We invite you to continue incorporating this updated acknowledgment throughout the academic year as a beginning practice of paying attention to our shared stories. These efforts cannot change history but offer a small step toward building an honest relationship with our history and lands. We also encourage faculty, staff and students to identify additional ways we can honor, listen, celebrate, receive, share and complicate the stories of this region. Please see the additional information listed below.


Natasha Martin, JD
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion
Associate Professor of Law

Christina Roberts, PhD
Nakoda and Aaniiih Nations
Director, Indigenous Peoples Institute
Associate Director, Matteo Ricci Institute
Associate Professor, English and Women and Gender Studies

Here are a few opportunities to join the Indigenous Peoples Institute in learning and celebration this academic year:

  • Lushootseed Language Conference: Oct. 17, 2020
  • IPI Book Club – Tommy Orange’s There There: November 2020 
  • Indigenous Peoples Institute Open House in Xavier: TBD Spring 2020
  • Indigenous Students Day: Virtual event in Winter
  • Since Time Immemorial Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum in Washington Statehttp://www.k12.wa.us/IndianEd/TribalSovereignty/
  • Land-grab universities: Expropriated Indigenous land is the foundation of the land-grant university system.