By Leo John Bird
Dear Provost Etchemendy and President Hennessy:
I am so tired and sad. Weeks have gone by since the faculty senate’s decision to reaffirm Stanford’s commitment to Indigenous community, identity, dignity and space. Decades have gone by since students of color have advocated for decolonized spaces on campus. Spaces that directly challenge, silence, and work against various aspects of my identity and well-being.
I don’t know if my campaign through senate effectively detailed why this matter deserves immediate attention, but I will try to use this letter to do so. Every single time I pass by Serra dorm, Galvez Street, and Junipero Serra Boulevard, I am reminded of the rape, enslavement, subjugation, torture, and hatred exhibited towards my peoples. Every time I see these names I can’t help but think of the future Ohlone admits to Stanford University who have to face their oppression on a daily bases.
It has come to my attention that members from the medical school and the Stanford Review have reached out to your offices in hopes of retaining these names. These voices purport a lack of due diligence in communicating with the Catholic community on these changes. It is obvious that these people do not recognize that they are silencing the Indigenous Catholic voices in our community. It is obvious that they are unaware of the hard work that the Native American Cultural Center staff and the Catholic Community staff have put into creating a cross-community event, with OpenXChange funding, next fall.
As you all are aware, the 45th Annual Stanford Powwow begins today and I can’t help but wonder why headway hasn’t been made in removing these names on campus. Indigenous people from across the country are coming to our University in hopes of celebrating our resistance, our cultural beauty and integrity, and our ancestors that prayed so hard for us to remain alive in this settler-colonial state. How terrible is it that we welcome these people to a campus that serves to rectify the histories of our colonizers and not the original people that inhabited this land.
I will be looking for you during my committee responsibilities. I hope you see me dance intertribals with Native and Non-Native friends alike so that you can see the pain on my face as I dance to remember the thousands of Ohlone bodies that we continue to dishonor with our complacency.
In short, I need our administration to do better. I need you all who hold positions of power to engage in cultural humility and understand the pain we continue to inflict on a daily basis by leaving these names on campus. I hope this letter reminds you all of your obligations to the students who make this University run. I hope that you begin to recognize the damage we inflict on Black and Brown bodies by honoring certain histories over others.
Leo John Bird