The Associated Students Senate unanimously passed two resolutions last Friday in support of Indigenous Nations, one to condemn the conditions of the Navajo Nation and the other to create a land recognition of the Chumash Nation.
The land upon which UC Santa Barbara is built “was home to several villages (He’lo, Heliyuk, Saxpilil, and Alka’as) of the Chumash Nation,” the Chumash land recognition resolution states. The new resolution will require the Internal Vice President to read a land recognition before every senate meeting.
Senator Esme Quintero-Cubillan, who was the first author on both resolutions, said her conversations with Mia Lopez, UCSB’s American Indian Student Association (AISA) tribal liaison, inspired her to write a resolution that was a “call to action” as well as a recognition.
During the public forum, students expressed the importance of representation for Indigenous students, who make up only 1% of the school’s population. Jeike Meijer, UCSB’s 2018-2019 External Vice President for Local Affairs and an Indigenous student, called on senators to do more for Indigenous communities in the future.
“A couple of minutes at the beginning of a senate meeting is so small, if you think about it, and as student leaders your platforms said that you aim to represent minorities and more minority groups. And this seems literally like the most tiny way that you can do that,” Meijer said.
The Senate passed a second resolution on Friday condemning the United States’ “inadequate response” to the conditions of the Navajo Nation amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Navajo Nation is currently experiencing an infection rate that is higher than New York City.
Quintero-Cubillan said the resolution also focuses on how the government “left [behind] the Navajo Nation” and “how they failed to provide for them” amidst a pandemic. The resolution details how the Navajo Nation has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and ensures the A.S. Senate will “continue to support the Navajo Nation through advocacy, awareness, and however stipulated by indigenous advocates.”
“They were promised $8 million in aid, yet were only supplied body bags. And I really tried to hit home the idea that America genuinely does not care about Indigenous lives or Indigenous voices,” Quintero-Cubillan continued.
Both Quintero-Cubillan and Meijer emphasized the importance of holding the University of California (UC) accountable for harming indigenous communities, including the UC’s role in funding the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii which is planned to be built on sacred mountain of Mauna Kea.
“America is occupied land. People were forcibly removed, there was genocide. We’re still living with those impacts today. We’re still living with the trauma. It’s in everything that we do,” Meijer said during the public forum.
Quintero-Cubillan said she is currently speaking with indigenous advocates on how to better support the Navajo Nation and plans on “introducing a bill that would immortalize the land acknowledgement,” as the resolution will grandfather out after the 71st Senate’s term ends.
“This is so important because it cannot die with me,” she said.
“I feel like when we change the legal code, that’s when suddenly, regardless of whether or not I’m here, people will always have something to point to and be like, you need to do this right now.”
Correction [6/06/2020 12:20]: This article has been corrected to reflect Mia Lopez’s position as the AISA’s tribal liaison, and Indigenous has been capitalized.