Many members of the Native American community feel that celebrating Columbus as the discoverer of America negates the existence of the indigenous people who were living in America before his arrival.
The speak-out, called "Say No to Columbus Day at Brown!" was part of a larger movement within the Native American community at Brown to end the observance of the holiday, push for an Indigenous Week in October to honor Native American heritage and to continue the dialogue about Native American history.
"We think the celebration is very one-sided," said Reiko Koyama '11, who spearheaded the effort. "We don't want to cut off conversation. We just don't want to honor Christopher Columbus."
The speakers, including students, faculty and members of the local Native American community, spoke at length about Native American history and the devastation Columbus caused to the indigenous community, including genocide and the spread of disease. They also spoke about the continued sense of invisibility and ignorance surrounding the current Native American community.
Besides Harvard, Brown is the only Ivy League school to observe Columbus Day, though some schools celebrate a Fall Break.