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Vander Graaff: 1491s event shows importance of truth during Homecoming

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Homecoming is a time for celebrating how far we’ve come as a University, but in order to do that, we must not only remember the good, but learn from the bad.

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On Wednesday night, a comedy and YouTuber group called the 1491s performed in the Lory Student Center as part of Colorado State University’s Homecoming celebrations. 

Invited by Ram Events and the Native American Cultural Center, the 1491s portrayed Native American communities through a satirical, thought-provoking lens that urged audience members who aren’t Native American to engage with a community and history that is so often ignored.

This event is a part of CSU’s Homecoming week. According to VICE, the tradition of homecoming was created in the early 1900s as an event where colleges invite their alumni to return to campus and watch a football game. 

“This is a campus-wide initiative,” remarked Tiffani Kelly, assistant director of the Native American Cultural Center. “This is the CSU Homecoming comedy show, and for the first time, it’s featuring Native artists. That’s huge, and it took 150 years.” 

This year marks 150 years of CSU’s existence, and while construction feats and accomplishments are presented for the holiday, a more relevant and defining aspect of the University’s history largely remains absent.

In attending and paying money to this institution, all of us, in some form, are complicit in its legacy. In this way, even if we don’t feel represented by this institution, when we leave it, it represents us.”

In 2018, then-President Tony Frank adopted a Land Acknowledgement Statement at the recommendation of Native American community members, according to SOURCE. It is meant to be read at events to recognize that the land upon which CSU was founded was occupied by Native American tribes. 

Our founding came at a dire cost to Native nations and peoples whose land this University was built upon,” reads part of the statement. “This acknowledgment is the education and inclusion we must practice in recognizing our institutional history, responsibility and commitment.”

The 1491s portrayed this painful history, but in their use of comedy, they did so not from a position of vulnerability, but of relatability and humanity. 

For students, faculty and staff, the University impacts our daily lives. In attending and paying money to this institution, all of us, in some form, are complicit in its legacy. In this way, even if we don’t feel represented by this institution, when we leave it, it represents us. 

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This can make it difficult to acknowledge the negative aspects of the University, but the 1491s event shows us how we can do so in a way that builds and heals. 

“I think the fact that we get to laugh and enjoy each other and find joy in this world is amazing,” Kelly said. “The fact that it’s a part of Homecoming is really cool because it’s bringing in a narrative that’s so often left out of a conversation.” 

CSU’s Homecoming celebrations are about honoring our school by remembering its history, but we tend to only want to remember the good things. Especially after a series of racist events on campus, we must also remember the history that we haven’t been able to leave behind.

It is impossible to get better when we don’t even recognize what we did wrong. Conversations about privilege and oppression are uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean we can shy away from them. In a moral society, we don’t have that option anymore. But that doesn’t mean we can’t build our community up as we do it.

Abby Vander Graaff can be reached at letters@collegian.com or Twitter at @abbym_vg.

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