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Celebrating a Culture

Yesterday was Indigenous Peoples’ Day. However, under the federal government, yesterday was Columbus Day: a holiday that celebrates a man who incited mass genocide of people living on the land before his arrival.  Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD), on the other hand, is a celebration of the culture of the people who Columbus so brutally invaded. IPD seeks to honor the people who deserve it while also celebrating the cultures of existing indigenous people, worldwide.

I myself am one of those existing indigenous people. I am Ojibwe, from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; however, I certainly do not look like the typical Native American one often sees in their textbooks. Walking on the street, I look white. But I’m still Native. My culture, my history, my family is Native. “You don’t look Native American! How much Native even are you?” were just a few of the reactions people would have when I would talk about being Ojibwe.  As a result, growing up, the celebration of my culture was limited to within my family; I rarely shared the fact I was Native at all.

Coming to Harvard, I was uncertain about whether or not I would try to outwardly express my culture to other people. I didn’t know if I should have even bothered joining NAHC, the Native American student organization on campus. However, a little part of me told me to go—to see what it was like. NAHC immediately accepted me and has allowed me to actively share my culture not just with other people, but with the entire campus.

Through our celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, our Annual Harvard Powwow, or through our groups semi-annual attendance of Ivy Native Council Conferences, I not only feel at home at Harvard, I feel as if I am thriving. Nowhere else have I been able to fully express who I am and my culture with all of those around me. And, as a result, I have since become more open and celebratory of my culture when I go home to Ohio.


Photo Credit: Charlotte Brown

Above: NAHC Celebrating IPD!

My experience as a Native at Harvard is what motivates me for my work with the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program with the Admissions Office. I want every indigenous student, every person of color, and every individual to know it is possible to find a home here at Harvard. And I know that everyone can. Because of Harvard, I have been able to celebrate my culture in ways I could have never even imagined. Yesterday was Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and tomorrow will be another day at home.

About the author

Hello there! I’m Noah Cominsky, and I am a sophomore concentrating in Government. Between classes, Model UN conferences, and Native Americans at Harvard College (NAHC) events, I am most likely... View full profile

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