Around noon, a group of students from numerous organizations and clubs, some bearing signs with “F**k Columbus” written in bold letters, led a tour of campus to celebrate sites of past campus resistance and to point out examples of what they called UNM’s “complicity in colonization and oppression against native peoples.”
Members of the group put up a large banner on the fence surrounding President Bob Frank’s on-campus residence reading, “This Is Stolen Land,” as well as an “eviction notice” on the front gate of the property. The notice said the group reserved the right to “seize ALL occupied and dispossessed lands now occupied and/or owned by the University of New Mexico.”
“We cannot be responsible for property or persons remaining on these lands,” the document continued. “Charges for the disposal of abandoned property will be applied to the outstanding land-debt the United States of America owes Indigenous Peoples for breaking over 500 treaties and the egregious acts of genocide.”
The group also posted large banners and copies of the eviction notice in several other places around campus.
“I recognize the sentiments of those protesting Columbus Day and the complexity of this sensitive issue,” Frank said in an official statement. “While I fully support the rights of our students to voice their opinions, I also recognize the necessity of having policies and guidelines that specify how that is done in order to maintain a safe and respectful campus.”
The policies and guidelines Frank referred to are UNM’s official Posting Guidelines, which state that flyers can only be posted with prior permission, and are not allowed to be posted on campus buildings, light poles or similar structures.
University spokeswoman Dianne Anderson said the school received reports that students had climbed on top of Johnson Gym and Dane Smith Hall in order to hang banners, and that the protest itself broke school policies, which require students to get a permit from Student Services before an event.
Anderson also pointed out that UNM had no official holiday or any sanctioned events celebrating Columbus Day. Anderson said she received that information from Debbie Morris, director of student affairs.
Nick Estes, a Ph.D. student in American Studies and a member of the Lakota tribe, helped organize the tour.
Estes said UNM’s official seal, which depicts a conquistador and a frontiersman, celebrates conquest and genocide of indigenous peoples.
“This has been going on for the last 500 years, so (the protest of Columbus Day) is not unique in that sense, but it is unique to this campus,” he said. “The University of New Mexico still recognizes Columbus Day. Although it doesn’t officially celebrate it on the calendar, it recognizes it as a date of remembrance.”
Organizer Rebecca Hampton, an international studies major, said the event was part of Indigenous Resistance Week, which will include other events hosted by various campus organizations.
Hampton said the groups — MeCha, Students for Justice in Palestine, Red Student Faction, Kiva Club, and the American Studies Graduate Student Association, among others — are working on a resolution to be presented to ASUNM and GPSA that would ask UNM to stop recognizing Columbus Day on all official school calendars, and rename it “Indigenous People’s Resistance Day” and “Dia de la Raza.”
“This is indigenous land, so any time someone says something truthful about that, it is protest,” Hampton said. “This land doesn’t belong to Columbus or whoever ‘discovered’ it. It belongs to indigenous peoples, and by acknowledging that and talking about that, that’s protest.”
In a draft of the resolution, the groups note that four states no longer acknowledge Columbus Day, and that Brown University and Arizona State University have also stopped celebrating it, ASU changing it to “Indigenous People’s Day.”
Jonathan Baca is the news editor and William Aranda is the assistant photo editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLobo.