It was an unusual sight for the campus of New York City’s Columbia University, even on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. As a drumbeat throbbed and voices chanted, 12 members of New Mexico’s Picuris tribal nation, dressed in ceremonial regalia, performed a solemn dance in front of Columbia’s Low Library. The dancers, young and old, wore native dress and turquoise jewelry, and carried baskets and gourd rattles. The female dancers rubbed cottonwood sticks together to represent grinding corn, while the men wore eagle feathers on their heads. They danced not for those watching but for Mother Earth, to celebrate life, health, and the bounty of the harvest.
Before the ceremony, the Picuris (pronounced “picker-EES”) Pueblo delegation, including Picuris governor Craig Quanchello, was officially welcomed by students from Columbia’s Native American Council and Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative, as well as representatives from the Lenape and Kahnawake tribal nations. Also in attendance were Sian Beilock, president of Columbia’s partner college, Barnard, and Barnard provost Linda Bell.