Natives at Penn Hosts March on Campus to Celebrate Indigenous People’s Day

Natives at Penn hosted a march on campus to honor Indigenous People’s Day at Penn.

Carrying their tribal nation’s flags, posters, and a Natives at Penn banner, students marched from Gutmann College House to the Starbucks at 34th and Walnut Street beginning at 10 a.m. The march marked the second such celebration on campus since Penn first recognized Indigenous People’s Day in 2021. 

“We wanted to have visibility on our day, to show the campus that it’s Indigenous Peoples Day, and there are Indigenous People people still here,” Wharton junior and NAP member Ryly Ziese said. “We had a lot of people from NAP come, and we had also had allies show up and support.” 

College junior Mollie Benn, who is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, said that the march aimed to celebrate the identities of Indigenous students.

“In prior years, [the march] had been to raise awareness of Indigenous students, but more importantly, to get the University to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples day,” Benn, who is also a Daily Pennsylvanian multimedia staffer, said. 

Vice Provost for Education Karen Detlefsen and Vice Provost for University Life Karu Kozuma sent an email to students on Monday addressing Penn’s commitment to Indigenous students and acknowledging Penn’s location in Lenapehoking, the ancestral and spiritual homeland of the Lenni-Lenape people.

Following the march, Natives at Penn hosted a breakfast at Greenfield Intercultural Center, and some members of the group attended Indigenous People’s Day in Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood.

Ziese, who attended a tribal boarding school, said she is accustomed to having a holiday from classes for Indigenous People’s Day. 

“I usually request or I email all my professors every year, and ask for an excused absence, because it is a cultural holiday for me,” Ziese said. “Usually professors are very welcoming to the idea of having an excused absence.”

This past year, the University allocated Natives at Penn a new space in ARCH. The group has been in communication with Kozuma regarding their plans to utilize the new space, in addition to some issues they are working to resolve. The group is hoping to plan more events to further utilize their ARCH space, although they do not plan to fully relocate from the Greenfield Intercultural Center. 

“Our goal this semester is mostly community building, we’ve had to deal a lot with administration and different external issues in the past,” Benn said. “We really just want to focus inward and form closer connections to other members of NAP and new members.”

The club recently recruited a new class of Native first-years at Penn. 

“We have more new members than I have ever seen,” Ziese, who has been in the club since her freshman year, said