NMU community celebrates and educates on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Photo+by+Kelsii+Kyto+%0ABoard+of+directors+member+for+the+Society+of+American+Indian+Government+Employees+Danny+Garceau+stands+in+front+of+students+in+Jamrich+Hall%2C+educating+about+Native+American+culture+and+customs.

Photo by Kelsii Kyto Board of directors member for the Society of American Indian Government Employees Danny Garceau stands in front of students in Jamrich Hall, educating about Native American culture and customs.

Students gathered inside of Jamrich Hall all day rather than outside due to the rainy weather to celebrate 525 years of Indigenous culture and raise awareness about the resistance against colonization for Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD) Monday, Oct. 8.

IPD is meant to educate people about the truth of Christopher Columbus who was previously celebrated for the discovery of America when in fact, he inflicted a wave of genocide on the Native American population, senior Native American studies major Grey Shea said. Shea, who is also the vice president of the Native American Student Association (NASA), said it’s also about celebrating indigenous culture at Northern Michigan University.

NMU rests on Anishinaabe homelands, which is something that the community should acknowledge, Shea said, adding that knowing the culture of the place in which one lives is important.

“It’s super relevant and totally not out of place to have this native gathering here,” Shea said. “And we just want to celebrate our language, culture and food.”

The event is a great way to have fun and learn something new, and it’s important for the people who are originally from Marquette, Shea said.

“It means a lot to me to be able to have a gathering like this to see my friends and family and to educate people who might just be walking through here, and maybe change their mind about something,” Shea said.

The hardship that NASA had in trying to get IPD formally recognized was difficult, Shea said, and the struggles continue. In fall 2017, 500 students signed a petition to support the formal recognition of IPD. When brought in front of the Board of Trustees, the trustees chose not to vote on the resolution brought forward by ASNMU.

The goal remains to make the event an official day at NMU and to continue the celebration, Shea added.

Shea also reflected on the strong Native community and culture, and hopes the celebration will continue to be prevalent years into the future.

“I hope there will always be that community here,” Shea said. “I know there will be that community here at NMU who gets together like this to help everyone at NMU and to heal with each other.”

During the afternoon, board of directors member for the Society of American Indian Government Employees Danny Garceau stood in front of the crowd, telling a brief story of how the Anishinaabeg received the flute as a gift from the creator through different animals. Afterwards he played a small song that reflected the remembrance of that story.

“[IPD] is to make people aware of the tragedies and sacrifices of the Indigenous people and what they’ve been through,” Garceau said. “But, it’s also an opportunity to celebrate and educate people on the culture, and part of that is through storytelling and music.”

Native peoples deserve credit for influencing things from the U.S. Constitution to mainstream culture, Garceau said.

Later in the day, over 30 people made their way into Jamrich 1320, following the scent of burning sage and the passionate chants of a drum song. NASA hosted a screening of the movie Powwow Highway to wrap up the full schedule of events for IPD. The film showed what social issues native people dealt with in the 1980’s and continue to face today, such as land grabbing, or the unfair seizing of land for the benefit of businesses and industries.

Senior Native American studies major and NASA President Kristina Misegan said she feels grateful that people still have the chance to celebrate IPD, even without the holiday having university recognition.

“It’s amazing to see everyone come together,” Misegan said. “We don’t want to dread on the bad parts of what happened. We want to celebrate.”

NASA member and criminal justice major Anthony Cergnul said seeing people interested in the holiday brings the hope of more awareness about Indigenous peoples and the rich culture that’s behind it.

“It really makes me feel proud to be here, because of the community involvement,” Cergnul said. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be the proud, vocal Native student that I am.”