MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — West Virginia University is taking the time to recognize Indigenous people rather than the popularized Columbus Day.

Members of WVU’s Native American Studies department helped host the events taking place on Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday, the university held a Peace Tree Ceremony on its downtown campus, right across from the Mountainlair, which has been an annual tradition at WVU since 1992.

“It’s a reminder to all of us living here today, especially to non-natives like myself, the native people were here first. Their Native Nations were here first. To pretend that that never happened, to pretend that they were never here, to pretend that they were never forcefully displaced, is wrong. It doesn’t promote the integrity of our history. It doesn’t help us understand history. What is important is going forward. None of us can undo the past. What we can do is try to change the legacy for future generations by promoting truth, promoting justice, promoting self-representation,” said Bonnie Brown, coordinator of WVU’s Native American Studies program.

This year, WVU is extending its celebration of Native people with the inclusion of a public forum titled “This Land Was Already Loved.” The forum is an all-day event that features entertainment of native traditions and insight from several leaders of the native nations.

“What it is I think, people look at us as in the past. Like we don’t exist anymore, like I said we still have our ceremonies, our language, our songs. We’re really a close community and just keep on our ways and thanks to the creator for this,” said Tadodaho Sidney Hill of the Onondaga Nation.

To learn more about the forum, click here.