By Gabriella Batista & Isaac Tellechea
Over the years, more and more states have opted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day to commemorate those whose histories and cultures predate the colonization of the Americas. In 2021, President Joe Biden became the first U.S. President to formally recognize Indigenous People’s Day. According to the New College 2023-24 academic calendar, students have no classes on Monday, Oct. 9 to celebrate Columbus Day. On this day, the Anthropology Program is set to host their first Anthropology Commons event of the year at Hamilton Classroom (HCL) 8 to educate event-goers on Maya backstrap weaving, Maya epigraphy, local folk music and more.
Local blues and Florida folk artists Pete Merrigan and Vinnie Seplesky will open the program with a wide range of local and regional sounds. Merrigan and Seplesky are well-known and beloved musicians in the St. Petersburg area, notably members of the Mad Beach Band, a staple in the area since the 1970s.
The event will include an exclusive screening of the short film Urpi: Her Last Wish. The film explores the complexity of Indigenous identities in Cusco, Peru and had its world premiere at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. Cinematographer Walker Hull (’18), Director Sisa Quispe, Associate Producer Suni Sonqo Vizcarra Wood in collaboration with the “Comunidad Cultural Ñawpa Ñan,” and the “Asociación de Tejedores Apu Runawana de la Comunidad de Amaru.”
The 2023 Florida Folk Heritage Award winner Concepción Poou Coy Tharin will take students through a demonstration of the craft she has mastered since early childhood, Maya backstrap weaving. Following her demonstration, archaeologist and New College alum Gabrielle Vail is set to present her research on Maya epigraphy. Vail is a research scholar and educator whose work on the Maya Codices has gained international attention
One of the event’s coordinators, Professor of Anthropology Maria Vesperi, encouraged community members to participate in the Indigenous People’s Day festivities.
“Our presenters were quick to say yes to the opportunity to honor and celebrate Indigenous cultures by sharing their knowledge, skills and talents with New College,” Vesperi said. “This will be a joyous day.”
For those attending, free food and beverages will be provided alongside the educational programming and lively band performances from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. in HCL 8.