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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Across the state of Wisconsin, UW System campuses celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day, previously recognized as Columbus Day.

UW System schools honor Native nations on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The land UW System students live, work and study on is the traditional homeland of Wisconsin’s Native nations and tribal communities

Last week, Gov. Tony Evers declared the second Monday in October Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a day previously known as Columbus Day. Universities across Wisconsin recognized the day with a variety of events to celebrate culture, educate students and acknowledge the significance of the land each campus sits on. 

UW-Stevens Point hosted its first-ever Indigenous Peoples’ Day event with a procession of the flags of the 12 tribes of Wisconsin, which will be displayed permanently in the Dreyfus University Center, Media Relations Director Nick Schultz said. Ho-Chunk drum music accompanied the procession, and Menominee Nation member Gary Besaw gave a speech. 

UW-Eau Claire’s event also featured the 12 flags of Wisconsin’s tribal nations, which the university unveiled in their new permanent spot in Davies Center. UW System Regent Edmund Manydeeds spoke, and Ho-Chunk drum group Little Thunder performed. 

The university also used the celebration to officially relaunch its seal and a land-use recognition statement. UW-Eau Claire’s seal features the Council Oak, a symbol originating from the tree where different Indigenous Nations met to share information and peacefully resolve conflicts. 

The land-use recognition statement acknowledges “that the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire occupies the sacred and ancestral lands of Indigenous Peoples” and is meant to be used on print materials such as business cards, included in email signatures and spoken at meetings or public gatherings when appropriate. 

UW-La Crosse observed Indigenous Peoples’ Day with the screening of the 2008 film “Older Than America,” which tells the story of a woman’s discovery of a Catholic priest’s plot to bury the truth about the crimes that took place at her mother’s Native American boarding school. 

After the film, members of the Native American Student Association hosted a short panel discussion. 

UW-Oshkosh framed its Indigenous Peoples’ Day event as a way to “counter-celebrate” Columbus Day and “promote the resilience of Indigenous Peoples all over the world.” 

The event featured keynote speaker from the College of Menominee Nation Chris Caldwell and the Wisconsin Dells Singers dance and drum group. 

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At UW-Superior, the Woodland Sky Native American Dance Group presented a program after the main celebration at the Maawanji’idiwin — “The Place Where We Come Together” — Medicine Wheel and Community Gathering Area near the Yellowjacket Union.

“It is crucial that we continue to acknowledge the history of this region and our country while still honoring the indigenous people and cultures that are very much here — alive and strong in community and contribution,” Assistant Director for the Department of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Kat Werchouski said in a press release.  

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