After nearly a year of preparation, Vista Grande High School hosted its first ever Indigenous People's Day Celebration, and two students are determined to …
After nearly a year of preparation, Vista Grande High School hosted its first ever Indigenous People's Day Celebration, and two students are determined to spread the school's efforts.
Vista Grande invited students from Taos Academy, Taos Charter and other area schools to share in a day of cultural appreciation for indigenous people across North America. Students at Vista Grande split up into groups and held demonstrations and discussions about Native traditions, art and existence while sharing some aspects of Native culture with guests. Four stations were set up for younger students to experience pillars of indigenous culture that can be shared and celebrated with the general public.
"We've had a ton of success, and I can't even imagine how well it's gone," said Vista Grande student River Trujillo. "We're really grateful for the turnout we had."
Trujillo, the coordinator of the event, has been working with staff and tribal leaders to set up the event for students in the community. In 2017, Trujillo and fellow student Elias Suazo went before the Taos Municipal Schools Board of Education with a proposal to change Columbus Day celebrations and designations to Indigenous People's Day. The district agreed and now follows a growing movement across the country recognizing the day on its calendar.
During the celebrations, students were invited to participate in food, art, music and oral tradition discussions about various indigenous tribes across the Americas. From the southern tip of Argentina to the tundra of Canada, indigenous people of all tribes and regions were honored and celebrated during the event.
Art and food demonstrations were a crowd favorite for the event in which students sampled local jams and oven bread as well as created their own replications of traditional patterns and artwork.
"Sharing the artwork is sharing the culture and that is important," said Vista Grande art teacher Dawning Shorty. "Sharing artwork is the easiest, most tangible way of learning about another tribe."
Trujillo said he is hoping to continue the education of anyone who are interested in learning about indigenous people and also wants to continue the push to remove Columbus Day from calendars. The efforts have been seen in Taos schools, but Trujillo said he eventually wants to take the proposal to the town of Taos and possibly even to state lawmakers.
"I have no idea where this is going to lead," Trujillo said. "I still do not plan to stop soon."
Efforts across the country to shift Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day have been ongoing since the 1970s when a group presented the idea to the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas. Several town and cities have adopted the day on their calendars and some have even abandoned Columbus Day altogether.
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