Our campus has a history; our grounds have a past. Even though its history is rich and beautiful and moving, how many of us can say that we know it? It is far too easy for us to deny or ignore things which are no longer relevant to us, even though it means everything to someone else.
This week we honored Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and the university offered an array of teach-ins to educate our community on the history of our lands to mark the holiday. The Intercultural Center hosted these events “to celebrate the diverse history and cultures of the indigenous peoples, organize against current injustices, and celebrate indigenous resistance,” according to an email sent by the Student Union on Oct. 2.
However, how accessible were these events really, with many of the teach-ins colliding with class times, and of course, midterms.
The land that Brandeis sits on once belonged to Massachusett people, which includes four contemporary surviving tribes: the Mattakeeset, Natick, Ponkapoag and Namasket, according to a Brandeis Hoot article. Our land has meaning. Try to be more mindful about that the next time you decide to leave your leftover cans on the grounds.
Let us also remember that certain Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. For instance, “the Navajo Nation has one of the highest infection rates per capita in the United States, surpassing New York and New Jersey,” according to a Time article published on May 29. Even before the pandemic began, Indigenous communities often did not have access to adequate health care, according to the United Nations, and therefore they have a disproportionate risk of infection for COVID-19. The organization reports that local medical centers are frequently under-equipped and under-staffed, leading to “significantly higher rates of communicable and non-communicable diseases, lack of access to essential services, sanitation, and other key preventive measures, such as clean water, soap, disinfectant, etc.”
During a pandemic, an important aspect of respecting our community, and this land, is being responsible and making efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Waltham is in a red zone, as of publication, according to the city’s website. This means that there have been more than eight cases per 100,000 people. Red is the highest designation given.
Our university contributes to the number of cases in the city of Waltham, and while it may seem that we are our own little bubble on this campus, it would serve us all well to remember the greater community outside of our university: the community which resides here for the entire year; the community which can’t just pack up its dorm room and go back home when things look bad. We must respect this community because it isn’t solely ours.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 62,495 people who call Waltham home; we are simply its guests. Be mindful of this next time you want to travel into Boston or think about going to a frat party. Remember that this is bigger than you and bigger than Brandeis. Respect the land and the community. Let it inform how we live our lives.