Community rallies for protection of indigenous peoples’ rights

Aura Barrera/Staff

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Students and community members gathered on Upper Sproul Plaza on Tuesday for the “Everyday is Indigenous Peoples Day Rally” in solidarity with indigenous people.

The rally, organized by the Mauna Kea Protectors at UC Berkeley, was a call for UC-wide action to protect indigenous sovereign rights and sacred sites. Speakers also pressured the UC system for its investment in the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, on Mauna Kea, a volcano that is held sacred by the Native Hawaiian people. Ralliers mentioned coming together as a community to protest the telescope.

More than 100 people participated in the rally, a majority of whom were students. Indigenous people comprise about 1% of the campus undergraduate population.

Bria Tennyson, a lead organizer of the rally, mentioned the importance of both recognizing the efforts of Native elders in the past and prioritizing the voices of indigenous people when confronting future environmental issues. The rally also featured guest speakers such as Johnnie Bobb, a representative of the Western Shoshone National Council.

“Our pictographs and writing on the wall represent our people and their dreams. … what they dreamt about in the future, and that writing there on the posters,” Bobb said. “It’s almost the same thing as our pictographs writing on the wall.”

Participants at the rally held up signs that read, “UC you want to see the stars but you don’t see the people,” “No Science without Ethics” and “Respect us or Expect Us.” A large banner on Sather Gate read, “Respect Indigenous People’s Rights. We Exist. We Resist. We Rise.”

Protesters also chanted “Whose university? Our university!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, TNT has got to go.”

According to Leke Hutchins, a campus postdoctoral student and Native Hawaiian, the indigenous community in Hawaii has not been heard and has been disrespected in the past.

“(The rally is) just important to me because Mauna Kea has become a catalyst for our community for us to rise up and say that we are here and that our voices need to be heard. … It’s just really awesome seeing my community rising up and for that to be sprouting up here and in Stanford,” Hutchins said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom similarly acknowledged the numerous instances of “violence, mistreatment and neglect” inflicted upon California Native Americans in a June executive order. Newsom has since declared Sept. 27 as the state’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Hutchins said, however, that Indigenous Peoples Day should be every day because the United States was built on “the backs” of the indigenous people.

“A lot of our knowledge has been co-opted and used in the system of government here, and in science,” Hutchins said. “We have never been recognized for these contributions and our work.”


Contact Nina Narahari at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ninanarahari_dc.