“I wish students knew we’re still here, we’re still alive and we’re still practicing our culture,” Wunk Sheek organizer Giselle Monette said in a “mini powwow” held in honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Wunk Sheek, UW-Madison’s Indigenous student organization, held the event Monday at the Lake Mendota room of Dejope Residence Hall to celebrate indigenous populations.
The cultural festivities featured food, prayer, as well as ceremonial dance and music. This year’s celebration comes less than a week after Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order formally recognizing the second Monday in October to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Presiding over the event was Dylan Jennings, indigenous activist, educator and member of the Bad River Chippewa Indians, who emphasized the importance of the holiday to native communities.
“It’s really empowering as a young person to scroll down on your feed and to see on social media all the good events going on across Indian country [and in] our universities, our cities,” Jennings said. “It seems like all of our communities are starting to wake up and acknowledge our people, and that’s a really good empowering thing. We’re really proud of that and really excited to see that.”
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes was honored with ceremonial gifts and spoke to the importance of respecting Wisconsin’s native communities at the event.
“The wisdom and teachings of Wisconsin’s native nations are valued by this administration,” Barnes said. “Our native communities are still here in Wisconsin.”
With Evers’ order, Wisconsin joins the growing number of states that celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day at a statewide level, along with hundreds of cities and municipalities. In Wisconsin, the holiday will coincide with — not replace — Columbus Day.
Monette said recognizing this holiday is a “beautiful step” in the right direction, but that people should make an effort to educate themselves on whose Indigenous land they occupy and connect with local Indigenous communities.
“I think the best way to honor [Indigenous communities] is to do your research, figure out whose land you’re on … don’t isolate yourself, come to these powwows, go to the reservations,” Monette said.