Student senate votes to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day

GVL / Dylan McIntyre
Pow wow at Riverside Park on Saturday, September 9th, 2017.

GVL / Dylan McIntyre Pow wow at Riverside Park on Saturday, September 9th, 2017.

Joshua Vissers

The resolution to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day was passed at the Thursday, Sept. 21, general assembly of the Grand Valley State University student senate. The vote took place after several community members stood to speak during the public comment period, as well as several minutes of statements of support from senate members.

“As a white woman, I’ve had the privilege of thinking of Columbus stumbling on this land as a discovery,” said Kristen Green during public comment. Green attends a local Native American regalia class, and her two daughters are Native American. Her 10-year-old, Jade Green, also stood at the podium and spoke in favor of the resolution.

“As I see it, this issue is elementary,” she said.

Megan Chivis, a member of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, also voiced her criticism of Columbus Day.

“If there was an ISIS Day, would you be okay with it? Would you be okay with a Bin Laden Day?” Chivis asked the assembly, after describing acts committed by Christopher Columbus.

Several more community members also voiced their support, including concerned students and also William Cadreau, the father of student senator Joe Cadreau, the senator who proposed the resolution. The elder Cadreau recounted oppression he had experienced in boarding schools growing up and hardships on the reservation.

“I appreciate the time here today. It’s all in your hands. It’s time to rename it,” he concluded.

The vote was called out by voice with one abstention and at least one opposed, but the large majority was in favor of the resolution.

Patrick Cox, a GVSU sophomore who is new to student senate this year, voted against the proposal.

“Something like that, wanting to change a holiday, I thought should be left up to the student body themselves,” he said after the assembly. At the previous meeting, Cox had proposed sending the resolution to the whole student body in a referendum but was told there was no process for such a public vote, as it hadn’t been done in decades, if ever before.

“At the end of the day, it’s left up to our administration to decide,” Cox said.

Senator Cadreau was unsurprised by the outcome of the assembly’s vote.

“I knew that some people didn’t agree with it, but not one time did I think that it was not going to pass,” he said. “This was something that the students and the community wanted.”

Cadreau is planning to take the resolution to the GVSU administration himself.

“The students took a chance; now it’s time for the administration,” he said.

Outside the general assembly meeting, student senator Rachel Ibara has been working on changing the drone policy on campus, which is seen as too restrictive and confusing.

“First, I think we have to know what we’re changing,” Ibara said. Her first step is to clarify the policy with the administration.

Student senate is also getting ready for the Battle of the Valleys, a rivalry with Saginaw Valley State University that energizes a week-long fundraiser leading up to the football game between the two state universities.

Student senate general assemblies are open to the public and take place regularly on Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. in the Pere Marquette Room of the Kirkhof Center.