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Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day

October 12, 2020


Dear campus community:

I want to first recognize and respect that I live and work on the traditional grounds belonging to the Nacotchtans, also known as the Anacostan and Piscataway.

Today, we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, acknowledging and honoring the contributions of Indigenous peoples to our country and our world. There is a unique and significant link between land and all aspects of Indigenous people, including spirituality, culture, language, family, law, and identity. At this moment, the national movement confronting systemic racism has brought additional attention to long-standing battles by tribes and Indigenous activists.

Gallaudet University is no exception. We are reckoning with our history with respect to Indigenous peoples and with the Indigenous Deaf community. Recently, members of Turtle Island Hand Talk, representing five tribes, met with several Gallaudet University leaders. Through this dialogue, we grew to understand that the quest to retire the Dawes House name, which is linked to a particularly painful history negatively impacting Indigenous communities has been over 30 years in the making. We are engaging further with the Indigenous Deaf community to address this history and its impact, and to look together towards the future. We will be sharing more details throughout the course of this semester.

At the invitation of the Division of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion’s Office of Multicultural Student Development and Mentoring, Dr. Melanie R. McKay-Cody, ’88, an Indigenous Gallaudet alumna and a member of Turtle Island Hand Talk, will give a presentation on the experiences of Indigenous Deaf college students on Thursday, November 19 from 1 to 2:15 p.m. ET in celebration of National American Indian Heritage Month. Please watch for more information.

In closing, we invite each member of our community to pause and take a moment today to reflect on the resilience of Indigenous peoples and on what changes we each might make to create a more welcoming and just community for all students, faculty, teachers, and staff, and particularly Black, Indigenous and People of Color individuals.


Roberta J. Cordano

12 October 2020


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