Karla Casique is a third year student at the University of Maryland in College Park. She is a leader in the Indigenous community, taking the role as the Native American Community Organizing Student Intern at the Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy office and the president of the American Indian Student Union. She is also involved in the Latinx community, a member of the Coalition of Latinx Student Organizations. Through her leadership and efforts in social justice advocacy, "Christopher Columbus Day" was abolished in the University of Maryland, replaced with "Indigenous Peoples Day". Her work in journalism has highlighted the struggles faced my marginalized groups, especially undocumented immigrants. She hopes to continue to use her talents and skills to bring awareness to issues and create real change.
I was 12 years old when I realized that I was taught the wrong history. I had just finished watching the HBO movie, "Bury My Heart Wounded Knee", and my perception of the world was completely altered. Adapted from the book with the same title, it tells the Native American side of Manifest Destiny--the graveyard of broken treaties, the massacres masked as battles, the conquering of the West at the cost of the lives of millions of Indigenous peoples. Nowhere was the mention of how justified and inevitable was the expansion of the United States, or the glory of war and the hard work of the settlers like in The Little House in the Prairie series, which I devoured as a child.
This sparked my passion and determination to unlearn history, thoughts, perceptions and judgements. I noticed more and more the stereotypes and misconceptions about Indigenous peoples as I went through high school and college. I studied and read on my own about Native issues and rights, learning about the American Indian Movement in the 1960's and 1970's and about Indigenous cultures from all over the world. All of this helped me pinpoint the root causes of these issues--colonialism, which led to genocide, racism, rape, exploitation of the people and their lands, boarding schools and many more.
When I applied to be president of the American Indian Student Union, I wanted to bring awareness to these issues but also provide a platform for Indigenous students at the University of Maryland to celebrate their cultures. One of my first things to push was to change "Christopher Columbus Day" to "Indigenous Peoples Day" on the university's calendar and materials. Small steps add up to bigger changes and removing the name of the man who began the exploitation of the Americas was a priority. This way, Native