Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Finding Commonality While Celebrating Our Differences

Dear Western Community,

On Monday, October 12 we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a moment that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures.  I am honored to have a growing community of Indigenous people at Western, including 954 students at all Western campuses who identify in some way as Indigenous: American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders.

 Last year, with the support of many across campus and in conjunction with the Lummi Nation, Northwest Indian College and Whatcom Community College, Western held its first-ever event in celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  More than 250 people came together for a community dinner, dialogue, and performances. 

This year, of course, we find ourselves constrained to a virtual space. But through the efforts of many people, events across the U.S. and around the world are being connected virtually.  I invite you to check out to find and share events, and follow activities on social media.  If you're planning an event or want to share your artwork, videos and other content, please email  Special thanks to Executive Director of Tribal Relations Laural Ballew and Academic Support Coordinator Patrick Freeland for their work on this initiative. 

As we work to increase access and success for students of color, and increase the number of BIPOC university leaders, faculty, and staff, we must create an environment that is truly inclusive, welcoming and supportive.  One way to do that is by bringing cultural traditions alive.  We’ve made some progress recently in providing ongoing institutional support for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Native American Student Union Pow-wow and prioritizing the creation of a Coast Salish longhouse in our 21-23 capital request.  We are working with the Black Student Organizations to improve our MLK Day, Black History Month and Juneteenth celebrations.  I would like to see us make similar progress in celebrating and supporting our growing Latinx communities, and I’m eager to hear your ideas on advancing this work.

The theme for this year’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration is “Breathe,” a message truly befitting the times we find ourselves in.  In these final tumultuous days of 2020, I imagine many of you are feeling exhausted, even fearful. 

Our BIPOC communities have lived through this emotional and mental abuse for far too long, and while these communities are growing stronger to combat hate and adversity, they should not be doing it alone.  We must work together to create changes in policies, in funding, and in social and educational programs to support our marginalized students, friends, colleagues and neighbors.  It will not be fast or easy, especially in these socially distant and economically challenging times.  But I feel confident that we will make progress because we have the will to do so.

Please find time to support one another, and to celebrate our Indigenous communities.

Be well,
Sabah Randhawa