By Alex Tsai
Native students and their allies marched in Wednesday’s Walk to Rename in support of renaming buildings and streets honoring Junipero Serra on campus.
The students convened in the courtyard outside of Serra house in Stern Hall and walked down Galvez Mall to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s office in the Main Quad, where they presented letters of discontent to administrators.
“To the window… to the wall… no more Serra Mall!” marchers chanted.
In an open letter co-signed by a coalition of “concerned Native students,” members of the Native community requested that the administration recognize that “the constant veneration of those in the past who mistreated [their] ancestors must cease” through Stanford’s renaming of buildings and streets commemorating Serra.
Serra, a Catholic missionary, colonized California for Spain in the 18th century and created the California mission system, which had severe impacts on Native communities in the area.
“The naming of buildings and streets after those who tried to eradicate our culture serves only to venerate the oppressors,” the protesters’ letter reads.
According to the students, the march grew out of discontent with inaction and lack of communication from the committee the University assembled early in 2016 to consider the Serra renaming issue. The Daily reported earlier this fall that the committee’s mandate has shifted since its creation, in what the group’s chair described as an effort to speed along an unexpectedly difficult process.
“The renaming committee created to discuss Serra’s rightful place on Stanford’s campus has been repeatedly delayed and now no longer seeks to form a recommendation on the street and three campus buildings named after Junipero Serra,” the letter explained.
The committee is now only formulating general principles for renaming. It expects to finish its work by the end of the quarter, according to committee chair and Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus David Kennedy.
Kiki Velez ’21 attended the march at the urging of Tyra Nicolay ’21, a resident of Muwekma and active member of the Native American community at Stanford.
Velez expressed her empathy for the Native community.
“I realized showing support for a community that’s marginalized on campus is really important to me because I come from a Hispanic background,” she said. “If there were a building named after a conquistador, someone who had conquered Mexico and slaughtered my relatives, I would want people to show up.”
Velez was pleased by the turnout of around 40 students and said that observers on campus seemed receptive to the protest.
“There was a lot of interest,” she said. “There were a lot of people Snapchatting and filming the march, and it seemed like people were pretty supportive.”
“Anytime a community feels marginalized on campus, I feel like that’s an issue we should all address,” she added.
Contact Alex Tsai at aotsai ‘at’ stanford.edu.