An open letter to President Sands and the Board of Visitors,
As Hokies, we pride ourselves in our Principles of Community. These principles guide our interactions with one another, but also require action when necessary. Our Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim, calls us to serve. It does not say whom to serve, for how long we should serve or after how many committee meetings held we can decide to serve. Abiding by our Principles of Community and Ut Prosim is part of what being a Virginia Tech Hokie means. It is in the spirit of our Principles of Community and Ut Prosim that, we, the undersigned Indigenous students and faculty, call on President Timothy Sands and the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors to act immediately on our request to the Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity (CEOD) dated February 26, 2018, and replace “Columbus Day” with “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” on our academic calendar beginning with the 2018–2019 school year, and following each year thereafter.
Indigenous students at Virginia Tech study in nearly every college on campus and represent at least 14 indigenous peoples: Tohono O’odham, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfeet, Delaware, Coharie, Quechua, Chickahominy, Lumbee, Shinnecock/Unkechaug, Hawaiian, Anishinaabe, Peepeekisis Cree and Navajo (Dine). Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Virginia Tech not only affirms our existence, but also honors the Monacan-Tutelo peoples — the original stewards of the land now occupied by our university. Furthermore, “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” advances efforts toward reciprocal partnerships with the 11 tribal communities of the state, a goal established at last year’s Tribal Summit which was hosted by the Office of the President at Virginia Tech.
Through our letter to CEOD, we have tried to create positive change through the appropriate university governance procedures. However, we have been discouraged and frustrated by the bureaucratic delays in this process. As new students travel to Blacksburg this summer for orientation, Virginia Tech cannot continue to embarrass itself by celebrating a colonial myth. Placing “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” on university calendars demonstrates a commitment to creating a positive environment for Indigenous students and visitors in accordance with our Principles of Community. Additionally, this effort is supported by students, faculty, staff and community members through their signature of an online petition. Therefore, it is imperative that outdated and impractical governance procedures be bypassed to ensure a speedy adoption of “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in place of “Columbus Day” on university calendars and other appropriate materials in time for the upcoming academic year. Virginia Tech must seize the moment and take proactive, rather than reactive, steps to lead the commonwealth of Virginia by adoption of “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Native at Virginia Tech Members:
Jason N. Chavez Qualla Jo Ketchum Sarah Giles Woodward
Christina Shammas Stacey Wilkerson Devin Ketchum
Melissa Faircloth Lucia Chambi Caylin Stewart
Shoa Deese Doris Brown Nizhoni Tallas
Kai Baisden Dr. Samuel Cook Heather S. Gerrish
Dr. Mae Hay Katharina Deiter Catherine Setaro
This open letter is supported by:
Latino Association of Student Organizations (LASO)
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Asian American Student Union at Virginia Tech
Muslim Student Union at Virginia Tech
Jewish Student Union at Virginia Tech