By The Gatepost Editorial Board
This past Monday, the University was closed to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day.
The holiday, which is federally known as Columbus Day, is a time to reflect on the horrific genocide inflicted upon Native people who lived here before colonists brutally seized their land and declared it their own.
It is a time to bring awareness to Indigenous People’s culture and celebrate their many contributions to our nation.
In years past, the University has been lacking in its focus to uphold its responsibility to provide Native American representation and acknowledgement that the University exists on Nipmuc tribal land.
An article published by the Gatepost Sept. 15 stated the University had been unresponsive to a letter sent in 2020 in which representatives of the Nipmuc Tribal Council expressed their concerns that the previous University Seal, which depicted a Nipmuc Native American holding a downward bow and arrow offensive.
Although the decision to reconsider the seal design was announced in 2020, there had been hardly any movement or discussion around it due to the vacant Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (DICE) position.
In May 2023, the University officially suspended the use of the racist seal, finally responding to the letter sent by the Nipmuc Tribal Council.
In addition, the University is now planning to make physical, permanent land acknowledgements in the form of murals, and will be making an effort throughout Native American Heritage Month to bring Native American culture to our campus.
Some members of the staff and administration have also begun to give land acknowledgements at the beginning of events and lectures.
Additionally, there is now a formal land acknowledgement on the DICE webpage which can be accessed through Google. In years prior, this land acknowledgement was not as easy to find.
This is progress.
The Gatepost commends the current administration for its suspension of the use of the seal and for announcing its initiative to make physical and permanent land acknowledgements.
Furthermore, taking the initiative to work with tribal community liaisons to include local Native American tribes in conversations about how to continue representation is crucial and needs to be ongoing.
We recognize this as an improvement from previous years when discussions regarding Native American representation felt unproductive or non-existent due to the lack of a Vice President in the Diversity inclusion and Community Engagement division.
With the hiring of Vice President of DICE Jeffrey Coleman, the first person to fill the position permanently since 2021, and new CIE Director Jerome Burke, the University has strengthened its commitment to representation of marginalized communities by hiring strong leaders in these roles.
However, while this work should be the focus of not just those who work in DICE, but rather the entire administration, it is important that these roles do not have ongoing turnover as they have in the past.
Changes to our University’s seal are a strong step in the right direction.
And although no land acknowledgement will ever be enough, initiatives to solidify our recognition through permanent art is a positive way to represent our Native American communities that were disrupted during the formation of the United States, and later, our University.
The physical land acknowledgements that will take up space on our campus will serve as a reminder to our community that the land that we work, learn, and teach on has roots in rich Nipmuc Native American history.
An outdated, racist depiction of a Native American is not representative of Framingham State’s inclusive community.
After all, the University made an official commitment to anti-racism in 2020.
This must include a strong commitment to learning from and acknowledging Native American and Indigenous peoples.