After heated debate Tuesday the Academic Senate reviewed and approved its support of a resolution presented by ASNMU to recognize Indigenous People’s Day on campus.
The resolution will be presented to the NMU Board of Trustees in the next step to make it official.
Several campus groups, including the Native American Student Association (NASA), NMU branch of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) and the Language Culture Club have been collaborating for over a year to obtain formal recognition of Indigenous People’s Day by the university.
The process to pass this resolution started with presenting a petition to ASNMU. The petition had over 500 student signatures and ASNMU voted to support it in winter of 2017.
Next, the resolution was presented by ASNMU to the Academic Senate for review multiple times. It had been denied once with suggestions for amendments to the wording. After it was amended it was brought back and denied again because the signatures on the document were from previous members of ASNMU.
According to an audio recording of the full meeting obtained by the North Wind, the meeting Tuesday became contentious during the questioning portion of the resolution review. There were debates over the meaning of Columbus Day and the history behind it. Some professors suggested taking any mention of Columbus out of the resolution.
The meeting came to a head when Native American Studies professor Leora Lancaster was asked by moderator and chairwoman of the senate Rachel Nye to stop recording a video she had been making for her students.
Lancaster complied and stopped recording. However, Nye expressed that she believed the video recording was made maliciously and moved to remove the entire proposal from the table, citing the recording and the number of times the resolution had been brought forward in the past.
This motion met opposition from other senate members and was put to a vote. Two-thirds of the Academic Senate voted to keep the resolution on the table and continue its review, overriding Nye’s removal. Later, Lancaster was asked if she had deleted the video. She said that she had not because she was hoping to show it to her students who could not attend the meeting.
After being asked to delete the recording Lancaster said she would comply, but President Fritz Erickson cut in with a comment about her right to record.
“I’m sorry but you have no obligation to delete,” Erickson said. “You may choose to accommodate. This is a public meeting, all public meetings are recordable, whether it’s in taste or out-of-taste it’s another matter. But, it’s entirely up to you whether you want to delete it or not.”
When the resolution was put up for a vote at the end of the meeting over two-thirds of the Academic Senate voted in support of it. Vice Chairman of the senate and Native American Studies professor Martin Reinhardt said it was a historic moment for the university.
“I appreciate everybody taking time to discuss this and even though I stand in opposition of the naysayers, I still appreciate the effort and energy that they put into a civil discussion on this issue,” Reinhardt said in an interview after the meeting.
Chair of assembly for ASNMU Jeulani Gahiji was one of the members presenting the resolution. Gahiji said she was relieved that it had passed after much deliberation.
“In the end it passed. Thank God, finally,” Gahiji said.