VSG passes resolutions to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Hispanic Heritage Month on campus

Vanderbilt Student Government aims to foster cultural inclusivity and bring awareness to minority groups on campus by formally recognizing Indigneous Peoples’ Day and Hispanic Heritage Month

VIDA+performs+at+Sabor+Latino+on+Monday%2C+October+7+in+the+SLC.+Sabor+Latino+is+an+annual+Hispanic+Heritage+Month+celebration+hosted+by+ALAS.+ALAS+co-sponsored+the+VSG+bill+to+acknowledge+Hispanic+Heritage+Month.+%0A%28Photo+by+Emily+Gon%C3%A7alves%29
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VSG passes resolutions to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Hispanic Heritage Month on campus

VIDA performs at Sabor Latino on Monday, October 7 in the SLC. Sabor Latino is an annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration hosted by ALAS. ALAS co-sponsored the VSG bill to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month. 
(Photo by Emily Gonçalves)

VIDA performs at Sabor Latino on Monday, October 7 in the SLC. Sabor Latino is an annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration hosted by ALAS. ALAS co-sponsored the VSG bill to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month. (Photo by Emily Gonçalves)

Emily Gonçalves

VIDA performs at Sabor Latino on Monday, October 7 in the SLC. Sabor Latino is an annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration hosted by ALAS. ALAS co-sponsored the VSG bill to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month. (Photo by Emily Gonçalves)

Emily Gonçalves

Emily Gonçalves

VIDA performs at Sabor Latino on Monday, October 7 in the SLC. Sabor Latino is an annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration hosted by ALAS. ALAS co-sponsored the VSG bill to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month. (Photo by Emily Gonçalves)

Corinne Cunillera

Hispanic Heritage Month Bill

A bill proposed by the Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) passed in the VSG Senate on its first assembly Sept. 25, resolving that Hispanic Heritage Month will be recognized by VSG going forward. This recognition further entails that VSG will call upon the student body to celebrate the contributions of the LatinX community and observe Hispanic Heritage Month with an “the appropriate ceremonies, activities and programs.”

Despite 9.7 percent of Vanderbilt’s undergraduate population identifying as part of the LatinX community, Hispanic Heritage Month has not been formally acknowledged by Vanderbilt Student Government until now. Hispanic Heritage Month is federally-recognized as spanning from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

“I think this may be the quickest we have ever passed a bill. It was unanimous,” said Branscomb Senator and co-sponsor of the bill Hannah Bruns. “It is really important that these types of bills are passed, and that everyone has a platform to embrace their heritage.”

ALAS President Ana Torres notes that student government recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month will not only bring awareness to the LatinX community at Vanderbilt, but also empower LatinX students across campus to be openly proud of their heritage. 

“Hispanic Heritage Month is a way to honor our culture and heritage, and it gives LatinX students the affirmation that we need to share our culture with Vanderbilt at large,” said Torres. 

While representatives of Hispanic heritage organizations on campus welcome this resolution, it does not go unnoticed how long Vanderbilt went without formally recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month. 

“I think Vanderbilt is very late to the idea of celebrating different identities, ALAS Board Member Nicolas Gardner-Serna said. “Historically, it’s been our student organizations celebrating our own identities instead of the school joining us in that celebration, so I really am looking forward to the institutional support this resolution will offer.”

Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Land Recognition Bill

As a result of another bill passed on Sept. 25, VSG will now formally recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day as the second Monday of  October. The resolution also includes that VSG will be vocal in acknowledging that the university lies on the ancestral grounds of the Cherokee and Sewanee people, who were removed against their will nearly two hundred years ago. 

“Everyone needs to feel comfortable on this campus, and it is part of VSG’s duty to pass bills like this and uphold our values of inclusivity and equity,” said Bruns, who also co-sponsored this bill.

While VSG has made large strides in recognizing the marginalized Native community on campus, more work is still to be done, according to President of Vanderbilt American Indian Science and Engineering Society McKalee Steen.

 “We are so excited to have the support of the student government, but it really is the first step,” Steen said. “We want the administration to recognize Indigenous’ Peoples’ Day and to utilize the land acknowledgement at Commencement and at other big events on campus.”.

Steen hopes this resolution will increase cultural awareness of the Native community on campus and the struggles that they face. Even though there are over 500 federally-recognized tribes throughout the U.S., none exist in Tennessee due to the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Steen highlighted.

“Having Indigenous Peoples’ Day on campus and supporting the land acknowledgment statement recognizes the harm that was done in the past, but also creates a space for healing which is so important,” Steen said.

The full text of the resolutions can be viewed here: 19-20-4_Resolution_on_Hispanic_Heritage_Month 19-20-2_Indigenous_Peoples_Day_and_Land_Recognition_Bill

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