Indigenous Peoples' Day: Student Activism In Action

The main event of Lower School Assembly on October 7 was a grade-wide presentation by the 4th grade, which was more than a year in the making. After learning about Christopher Columbus and his maltreatment of the Taino people, the Class of 2027 (in 3rd grade at the time) embarked upon a campaign to rename the School’s then “History of the Americas Day” to “Indigenous Peoples' Day.” They started by thinking about who in the School they needed to engage in conversation—namely, Ms. Erica Corbin, Head of School. They wrote her letters, speeches, poems, and songs. They crafted speeches and drafted petitions. “We used what we learned in class to make our voices heard,” a member of the class said. After compiling all of their hard work, the two classes presented their case to Ms. Corbin. To their delight, she agreed! The now 4th graders attribute their success to the fact that everybody had a role to play in what was truly a collective effort. Assembly-goers had the pleasure of seeing and hearing some of the posters, songs, and poems.

Of course, the work doesn't stop just because the Class of 2027 successfully influenced the School to change how it refers to the day. “You might be wondering, what’s next?” they asked astutely. They encouraged the community to continue to remember the many indigenous groups that inhabited the lands we live in now and to learn about indigenous history. They highlighted the Lenape, Manhattan’s original inhabitants. 

The presentation ended on an inspirational note. “Think for yourself about problems that need changing. What do you care about? What do you think needs to change?” To that end, a poster is now located on the 2nd floor that encourages students to reflect and share what they think needs changing, in our city and beyond.
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