Michigan Tech adopts Indigenous Peoples’ Day
HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday, Oct. 14, a holiday growing in popularity across the country since it was first proposed in the late 1970s.
For several years now, Michigan Technological University has been celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, with various activities and events. And while Valoree Gagnon discussed the adoption of the holiday on the university campus, she says she was not the one who started it. Gagnon is the director of University-Indigenous Community Partnerships with Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center.
“It’s an initiative that began outside of this region,” Gagnon said.
In the Upper Peninsula, the Indigenous People’s Day Campaign is an ongoing effort to promote the recognition of the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day on institutional calendars across the U.P. The campaign is aligned with a rising nationwide effort- several cities, states, and universities across the nation have replaced the federal Columbus Day holiday with one that officially celebrates the Indigenous Peoples of the country.
“So, this isn’t just a Michigan Tech initiative,” said Gagnon. “This is like a wider community initiative. But part of that was to establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day here at Michigan Tech, like on our calendar, to actually have events that celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, and use that also to create more awareness and acknowledgement here on campus. The awareness and acknowledgement of where we are and what that means is very limited, here on campus.”
First proposed in 1977, a delegation of Native Americans of different nations petitioned an Indigenous Peoples’ Day before the International Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations in the Americas. Worldwide, there are many designations for celebrating Indigenous peoples, such as Indigenous Resistance Day, Native American Day, and International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.
In the United States, the movement was initiated by Berkeley, California, residents through a Columbus Day protest in 1992, while they simultaneously asserted the holiday for Indigenous Peoples. They have celebrated the Indigenous Peoples’ holiday every year since.
Currently, more than 40 cities nationwide have adopted the Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday – Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, Portland, San Antonio, Santa Cruz, Cambridge, and Albuquerque, to name a few, have unanimously agreed to honor Indigenous peoples and homelands.
In 2016, the state of Vermont joined Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and South Dakota in commemorating the history of Indigenous peoples. Universities such as California-Berkeley, Cornell, Arizona State, and Brown, among others, have also agreed to restore the holiday to a worthy namesake for Indigenous peoples.
At Michigan Tech, the annual celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, said Gagnon, is to acknowledge and honor the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary homeland of the the Great Lakes Anishinaabe. It is also in respect of shared land and waters the Ojibway people, the 1842 Treaty Tribes in Keweenaw Bay, Lac Vieux Desert, Lac du Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreilles, Bad River, St. Croix, Red Cliff, and Sakaogan Mole Lake.
“We also knew that it wasn’t just about establishing Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” Gagnon said, “because if you put that on the calendar and nobody cares, and nobody knows what that means, then what’s the bid deal?”
Raising awareness of the significance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day became almost an outreach program.
“We went to the Undergraduate Student Government and the Graduate Student Government here,” said Gagnon, “and we talked to them about what that was, and about what Indigenous Peoples’ Day is, and why it was important to have it here on campus, and they both passed a resolution to support changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. “
Gagnon said the group also met with former University President Glenn Mroz a number of years ago, and informed him of the student governments’ resolutions.
“He was said he did support it, but he was a little bit hesitant,”Gagnon said, “and said he wanted to think about it. That was the last we heard. So, we thought, even if he doesn’t put it on the calendar, it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. So, last year, we had a series of events, and we just claimed it as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a week-long celebration.”
Gagnon said the group did not learn until recently that Mroz did, in fact, officially place it on the university’s calendar.
This year, Indigenous Peoples’ Day will kick off a series of events from Monday, Oct. 14, through Oct. 28:
Van Pelt & Opie Library, & Portage Lake District Library — Indigenous Learning Resources Exhibits
Monday, Oct. 14
12-12:30 p.m., Michigan Tech Husky Statue — The Woodland Singers – Honoring Land, Place and People.
6-8 p.m., Fisher Hall 138 — Documentary & Dialogue: American Indian identity in contemporary media.
Tuesday, Oct. 15
12-1 p.m., Noblet 144 — School of Forest Resources & Environmental Science Brown Bag Lecture with Kalvin Hartwig (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa).
4-5:30 p.m., Hamar House — Reception for Kalvin Hartwig and Katy Bresette (Red Cliff Band of Ojibwe).
6-8 p.m., Fisher Hall 138 — Short Films: Waadookodaading & This Is Who I Am, with special guests Katy Bresette & Kalvin Hartwig.
Wednesday, Oct. 16
2-3:30 p.m., Noblet 144 — Anishinaabemowin Distance Learning Session with Dr. Margaret Noodin. — The first 40 participants will receive a free copy of Bizhiw Miinawaa Miinan – Lynx and the Blueberries by Cecelia LaPointe (Waub Ajijaak Press).
6-8 p.m., Fisher Hall 138 — Feature film: Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001).