Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

Timeless Pain

It has been difficult figuring out how my perspective fits into the Junípero Serra renaming argument or how valid others will consider my opinion to be. As someone whose identity is strongly rooted in her Native culture but does not fit society’s preconceived notions of what indigeneity looks like, I always wonder how much of an impact my words will have on the ideas of my peers. But now I think it is time for me to speak.

As I was choosing which college to attend last April, Stanford was the clear winner. Not only did it fit all of the criteria for academics, location and general personality, but it also had a vibrant Native community with people from diverse backgrounds. People who accepted me and my experiences as a modern-day Native woman. People who quickly became my family. And with Stanford’s dedication and seemingly unending support towards its Native students, something rarely seen in other academic institutions, my choice was easy. Within a short period of time, I developed an understanding of my own Native identity and those of my peers. In this respect, I truly thank Stanford for providing me with the opportunity to be here and grow in my culture; however, Stanford’s commitment to the Native community on campus cannot end with those small victories.

Every day as I walk up the steps to Muwekma-Tah-Ruk, I am reminded of the promises that this campus has made to its Native students. As we are on Muwekma Ohlone grounds, it is a small act of reclaiming space and memory for this land’s original inhabitants. As the “House of the People,” it fosters diverse cultures. From Guam to Canada and from New Mexico to Sweden, the students of Muwekma are from every corner of the earth. With this understanding of our position as guests here, we celebrate the culture of the people who were here first and who are still here now. We celebrate who we are, and we celebrate the Muwekma Ohlone.

The creation of Muwekma-Tah-Ruk is a beautiful example of Stanford’s promise to care for its indigenous students, to properly represent them and to support their culture. And yet, although we have been able to celebrate our culture in one area of campus, multiple other sections of Stanford aggressively work to strip this Native pride away. Serra is here, and although he is dead, Stanford blatantly chooses to give him power from beyond the grave. He detracts from the education and psychological health of Native students. He stands in the way of progress. He glorifies oppression and genocide. He is more powerful today than he was two and a half centuries ago.

I believe my peers deserve the same opportunities and quality of life that other Stanford students may take for granted: a chance to feel safe and accepted and then, with this understanding, grow through our education and environment. This is why I believe in removing the name of Serra. This is why I have chosen to speak.

– Carson Smith

 

*** I would like acknowledge all of the amazing pieces of writing from individuals within my community, which have inspired me to create this. Thank you for all of your hard work and beautiful words.***

Contact Carson Smith at csmith97 ‘at’ stanford.edu.