The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Sunday, June 23, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

UNC recognizes Indigenous Peoples' Day following petition from Carolina Indian Circle

The proclamation, which was published Sunday, also acknowledges that UNC benefited from the sale of land stolen from Indigenous people.

American Indian Center UNC.jpg

The UNC American Indian Center was established in 2006 by former provost Robert Shelton to connect University faculty, students and staff to Native communities both in North Carolina and abroad.

UNC will officially recognize the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples' Day following years of petitions from the Carolina Indian Circle. 

UNC issued a proclamation Sunday to recognize the day and to “commend its observance to all members of the University community.” It also acknowledges that UNC was built on land originally belonging to the Enos, Occaneechis, Shakoris and Sissipahaws.

“It is our collective responsibility to recognize and honor the land that is currently home to the University as historically aboriginal territories and Indigenous lands,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, Vice Provost for Academic and Community Engagement Joseph Jordan and the UNC American Indian Center Staff and Consulting Team said in the proclamation.

The date was formerly blank on UNC’s academic calendar, though the Town of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the state of North Carolina all previously proclaimed it as Indigenous Peoples' Day.

The Carolina Indian Circle petitioned the University for recognition of the day in 2020 and again in 2021, receiving over a thousand signatures by Sunday night.

A 2020 article published in Scalawag Magazine revealed that UNC expropriated hundreds of thousands of acres of Cherokee and Chickasaw land. And in the fiscal year from 1834 to 1835, land sales made up to 94 percent of the University’s budget. Sunday’s proclamation states that “the University benefited from the sale of land originally belonging to Native nations.”

“I fully support our proclamation recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a statement to The Daily Tar Heel. “We must stand together to honor their significant contributions to our community, both past, and present. This recognition also serves as an opportunity to celebrate Indigenous peoples’ thriving cultures, traditions, and values that have helped make Carolina what it is today.” 

UNC had previously discussed implementing a land acknowledgment project. Former American Indian Center Director Larry Chavis, who was asked to write the land acknowledgment, said at a February Faculty Council meeting that the experience felt like “writing my own thank you note for a gift that was taken from me.”

Chavis announced his intent to resign as director of American Indian Center at a Faculty Council meeting in March due to the lack of funding and lack of proper pay for staff. 

Irene Norman, a Mohawk and then-senior student, told the DTH in March that the acknowledgment is a nice gesture, but is also the bare minimum of what the University should do.

“I feel like we're not really acknowledged and recognized much by the University,” she said. “Like we have our own little community and within that community, we're very supportive of each other. But I feel like the University doesn't go out of its way to support or promote us."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article's headline incorrectly stated the's Carolina Indian Circle. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error. 

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.