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From the President

Indigenous Peoples Day: Celebrate and honor the history, cultural contributions, resilience, and future of all Native people

Posted October 11, 2021

Dear colleagues, 

Today, Oct. 11, we recognize Indigenous Peoples Day, to celebrate and honor the history, cultural contributions, resilience, and future of all Native people. It occurs on the date that Columbus Day was previously celebrated across the United States. As more people began to learn about the violent history and devastating impact of Europeans’ encounter with the Native people of the Americas, the movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day has grown. The state of South Dakota was the first to declare observance of Native Americans’ Day in 1990 and the city of Berkeley, Calif., followed with a declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992. As of 2021, eighteen states and the District of Columbia celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day or a variation (Discoverers’ Day in Hawai’i; American Indian Heritage Day in Alabama; Native American’s Day in South Dakota). Last Friday, President Biden was the first U.S. president to issue a proclamation observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day nationally, noting that “our Nation celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the Federal Government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations.”

Metro State’s first commemoration occurred on Oct. 12, 2015. At the beginning of this academic year the university adopted its official land acknowledgement statement: 

We [I] begin by acknowledging that we are on the unceded lands of the Dakota and Anishinaabe peoples. Just twelve miles away from Metropolitan State University, the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi River at a place called Bdote Mni sota, the place “where two waters come together” in Dakota. Bdote, and the bluff land surrounding Metro State, is an especially sacred site, a spiritual and physical place of creation for indigenous peoples of Minnesota. We encourage each of us who are settlers on or visitors to this land to become familiar with the Dakota and Anishinaabe peoples, and their vibrant lives and work. We strive to interrupt the legacy of colonialism and indigenous erasure by supporting efforts to reunite and restore indigenous peoples to the land. This is the definition of landback, and the reason we do land acknowledgement practice. 

To learn more about how the land acknowledgement statement was developed, you can view the PowerPoint presentation from the Convocation session led by VP of Equity and Inclusion Josefina Landrieu; Kelly Collins, our student success coordinator for American Indian students; and I. We recognize that land acknowledgement statements are not sufficient; the university community must also take action that works to redress past wrongs and provide ongoing support for Indigenous members of the university and civic communities. Among the actions we are committed to are:

  • Raising funds and identifying sources to provide gap scholarships for American Indian students attending the university. 
  • Working toward partnerships that promote baccalaureate degree completion for students at Minnesota’s four tribal colleges, with which we have recently signed articulation agreements:  Fond-du-Lac Tribal and Community College; Leech Lake Tribal College; Red Lake Nation College; and White Earth Tribal and Community College. 
  • Bringing back Native American language courses (Ojibwe and Dakota). 
  • Offering the use of facilities without cost to Native American and Indigenous groups. 
  • Supporting and growing Metro’s American Indian Advisory Council, the Native Circle space and VOICES, the student organization. 
  • Seeking out and purchasing from businesses owned by Indigenous people. 
  • Building a deeply reciprocal relationship with the nearby Wakan Tipi Center, whose executive director is alumna Maggie Lorenz. 

Through learning more about land acknowledgement practice, we learned that individuals can also take actions in solidarity with Indigenous communities by: 

  • Paying a Native land tax, usually by contributing to Native and Indigenous organizations or scholarship endowments established by the university. 
  • Supporting Indigenous and Native businesses.   
  • Paying attention to issues and policies affecting Indigenous communities and finding ways to act in solidarity to address those that have negative impacts on the community. 
  • Learning more about the history, culture, and current work of members of Indigenous and Native communities: 
    • Read about the flags of the eleven sovereign nations located within the borders of Minnesota, which hang in the Great Hall
    • Check out the Indigenous People in Minnesota Lib Guide. 
    • Read The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the present by David Treuer. As described in the library record, “The story of American Indians since the end of the nineteenth century to the president is one of unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention…The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is the intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative era.” 

There are several area events you can participate in for Indigenous Peoples’ Day including:

  • Uŋči Maká Wóabdezapi | Recognizing Mother Earth: A Wakan Tipi Center Celebration and Ceremony from 4–6 p.m. TODAY at Wakan Tipi/Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. Registration is requested.
  • Also today, at 6 p.m. The Native Governance Center is hosting a virtual event: “Healing our futures: Indigenous Wealth Building for Future Generations”. Register here.
  • Visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art and tour the Arts of the Americas display.
  • Visit the Science Museum of Minnesota and view the permanent exhibit on Level 4, which displays objects and artifacts of generations of Dakota and Ojibwe people.
  • Learn about Native American culture and history at the Minnesota History Center’s Our Home: Native Minnesota exhibit.
  • Explore the new work, Okciyapi (pronounced “oak-chee-YAH-pea"), by Twin Cities based artist Angela Two Stars, unveiled on Saturday in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. From the Walker’s description: “Throughout the work, Two Stars offers ways for us to encounter and experience the Dakota language both as written and spoken words.”

As a university, we stand in solidarity with Native communities as they continue to collectively protect their culture, language, and lands. Remember that November is designated as National Native American Heritage Month and there will be more opportunities for learning and action shared then.

- President Ginny Arthur