SPU recognizes its first Indigenious Peoples’ Day

SPU acknowledges the indigenous land that the campus is on, dedicates event to Native communities

Carlos Snellenberg-Fraser, Staff Writer

During Chapel on October 12th, members of the Mending Wings youth program introduce themselves to the audience. (Gabrialla Cockerell)
The member of the Mending Wings Indigenous youth program. (Gabrialla Cockerell)

On Oct. 11 and 12, Seattle Pacific University recognized Indigenous Peoples Day, marking the first time in the university’s history as they hosted a music event and dedicated chapel time.


Vice Provost for Inclusive Excellence, Dr. Sandra Mayo, described that the event came after faculty and staff created a committee dedicated to finding ways to recognize indegenous people and communities.


“The idea for the event, which was led by the Music Department, came about in conversations with a cross-campus committee of faculty and staff that has been meeting since last January to begin to examine SPU’s history of engagement with Native peoples,” said Dr. Mayo. “As a first step, we developed a land acknowledgment statement that recognizes the original stewards of this land.”


At the beginning of the event, Dr. Mayo read outloud a land acknowledgement statement that recognizes that the land the university is located on once belonged to the Duwamish people.


“As a Christian university, we recognize that we are a people who are formed by a story. Our story at Seattle Pacific is tied to the land that this campus is built on. A land that holds rich and far too often, forgotten histories,” said Dr. Mayo. “The land acknowledgment statement and last week’s event are just the beginning of a longer journey toward reconciliation and repair, one that will require educating ourselves as a campus community and deepening our relationships to our indigenous neighbors.


Dr. Christopher Hanson, Director of Music Education and Orchestral Activities, said that it was a privilege to be part of the event that marked the first Inidigenous People’s Day at SPU.


It’s really exciting, because this is the first time we’ve had a program or an event for Indigenous People’s Day on campus. It’s really an honor and a privilege to be a part of something when it happens for the first time,” Hanson said. “I love that we get to establish a tradition that we can grow on.”


Dr. Hanson described that during his time as a public school teacher, he would teach at and participate in a number of events such as Hispanic Heritage Month or Black History Month, during which he would select musical pieces to reflect the cultures being celebrated, much like what was done at the events.


Dr. Christopher T.F. Hanson performing at the “Musical Tributes” portion of SPU’s “Indigenous People’s Day Recognition” event on October 11th. (Devin Murray)

Since being at SPU, I’ve been a part of some events that celebrated liturgy and sort of religious holidays around the calendar, but I think this might be my first time participating in something that had this kind of cultural awareness,” said Dr. Hanson.


Lainey Mendoza, first-year physiology and honors student, enjoyed the musical aspects of the event along with the message the event sends to the community. 


I’m not Native American, but I do appreciate the fact that it has been changed to Native American Day, and I really like how they’ve given this day back to the Native Americans,” said Mendoza. 


Mendoza was glad to see the university dedicated the event to the indigenous communities and that they made an effort to recognize the Native people and the land the university is on, while also educating attendees on Native American culture. 


“The music, and I would say the dedication at the beginning with their statements, [and] SPU’s statements regarding the nature of how this land came into their possession was very nice,” said Mendoza. “I did learn about the history of the totem pole that I didn’t know existed until today.”


With the marking of the first Indigenous People’s Day on-campus, the university appears to be planning to make this an annual event and include more messaging to recognize Native Americans, their culture, and their communities.


Dr. Mayo said that the intent of the committee is to continue meeting to discuss next steps, which includes plans for future events. 

We also want to use this time to develop relationships and understanding with local tribes, so that we can center indigenous voices in these conversations,” said Dr. Mayo.