May 3, 2019 – On Thursday, May 2, 2019, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) delegates visited Columbia High School to speak about the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages as declared by the United Nations. This event was one of the first held outside of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization‘s (UNESCO) auspices on the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and is the first side event held at a high school.
Indigenous peoples from North America and West Africa were represented at the Indigenous Peoples Celebration at CHS, which Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, former Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Co-Founder of Tin Hinan Canada, recognized to be on historic indigenous (Lenni Lenape) territory.
In addition to Dr. Aboubakrine, Kenneth Deer, Secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake Haudenosaunee, Joe Deom, External Relations Committee and Sub Chief of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake Haudenosaunee, and Saoudata Wallet Aboubakrine, Founder/President of Tin Hinan Sahel also spoke to the audience of CHS students, MAPSO community members, and visitors from neighboring towns. The event was also attended by several other UN delegates, notably Tiffany Ente-Jordan, a Resource Person of Tin Hinan.
Both Dr. Aboubrakine and Dr. Deer, along with their colleagues, are leading experts on indigenous issues in the world. In their presentations, they recognized the need for youth to learn about indigenous issues and to realize their importance to global issues, such as globalization and climate change. Dr. Deer noted the urgency of the need to address the disappearance of indigenous languages, claiming that an indigenous language dies out every month, and with the death of every elder, a few words with cultural and historical significance also die out.
CHS students also had the opportunity to learn about Tuareg fashion and games used to spread messages of peace. The Tuareg people are a pastoralist people from the Central Sahara in Northwestern Africa. CHS students dressed in clothes made by Tin Hinan for the 2019 third edition of the “Festival Vivre Ensemble Tombuktu“ in Timbuktu, Mali, which carry messages about the right to education for girls, violence against girls and women, the right to peace, and the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
This event was organized by the Indigenous Peoples Celebration Organizing Committee at Columbia High School. CHS senior Hikaru Hayakawa, who is the Chair of the Organizing Committee for the event, has been volunteering for Tin Hinan for three years and was a delegate to the 2017, 2018, and 2019 sessions of the UNPFII as an intern and volunteer for Tin Hinan. CHS juniors and Vice Chairs of the Organizing Committee, Jeremy Giles and Isabel Wolter, also attended the 2019 session of the UNPFII as delegates and volunteers for Tin Hinan. Along with student volunteers, Jasmine Quraishi, Maisie Conrad-Poor, and Milo Orbutz, faculty advisors, Rocio Lopez and Stephanie Rivera, they worked hard to organize the event held on May 2 with the help of Bibi Hayakawa, Randi Mandelbaum, Lisa Novemsky, CHS Principal Dr. Kalisha Morgan, CHS Athletics Director Kenneth Mullen, CHS Athletics Department Secretary Amy Singer, and the Board of Education.