Columbus Day Sparks Student Protest
by Anna Mitchell
Anonymous Groups Tape Over Junipero and Serra Signs
Students biking past Wilbur and Stern Halls today might have noticed that the signs for the dorms Junipero and Serra looked different. Bright green tape covers “Junipero” on the Wilbur signs on Escondido Mall and the lettering on the building itself; written in black marker over the tape is the word “Ohlone.” Similarly, signs for Serra have been covered by the name “Toypurina.”
At the post office, someone had crossed out “Columbus Day” in a sign announcing closure for the holiday and replaced it with “Indigenous People’s Day.” Meanwhile in White Plaza, pro-indigenous and anti-colonization sayings have been chalked on the cement: “Native Americans discovered Columbus,” “Cuck Folumbus,” “Blackfeet Pride,” “Lakota Strong,” and others.
Columbus Day is a contentious holiday. Critics of Columbus focus on his role in enslaving and colonizing native peoples, hence the choice of “Ohlone” and “Toypurina.” The Ohlone people inhabited areas around the San Francisco Bay; much of their traditional way of life had disappeared by 1810 after the Spaniards arrived in 1776 and established a mission system. Toypurina was a female shaman who led a revolt against the San Gabriel Mission in 1785.
These moves seem to be the latest protests by groups representing indigenous people and/or participating in intersectional activism. Earlier this year, in response to a debate over buildings and streets at Stanford named after Father Junipero Serra, the ASSU passed a resolution requesting that the university rename these buildings.
The Review published an article arguing that Stanford must decide on clear standards for naming and renaming, instead of handling cases on a case-by-case basis. President Hennessy and Provost Etchemendy eventually did form a committee to establish such principles, but, so far, no buildings or streets have been renamed. The committee’s chair, historian David Kennedy, says that the committee will try to identify criteria in October and announce recommendations during winter quarter.
In the meantime, it remains to be seen if these anonymous actions will provoke thoughtful dialogue and reasoned action on the issue of historical names.
The Stanford American Indian Organization held their annual Indigenous People’s Day Candlelight Vigil tonight in White Plaza.