MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Northern Michigan University’s (NMU) Board of Trustees voted 5-3 on July 30, passing a motion that recognizes Indigenous Peoples Day on campus.
NMU’s Native American Student Association (NASA) has put forth efforts to get Indigenous Peoples Day recognized by the university for five years.
This was a collaboration among NASA, Associated Students of Northern Michigan University (ASNMU), The Center of Native American Studies, and several other partners.
Indigenous Peoples Day recognizes “precolonial indigenous identity, and strengthen relationships within the community. The education includes a counter-narrative to the doctrine of [America’s] discovery. It will also focus on the importance of respecting the culture and building a more just future.”
Over the years, the groups submitted resolutions to the board and put referendums on ASNMU’s ballots to help get this passed. Last Fall, the Board of Trustees formed a committee to address proposals regarding Indigenous Peoples Day.
Bazile Panek, NASA’s president, Emma Drever, ASNMU’s president, and NMU professor Dr. Martin Reinhardt worked together to bring forth a proposal to the committee and the board.
Drever said that Indigenous Peoples Day is not a day of celebration, but a day to recognize the genocide of indigenous peoples in America since Christopher Columbus.
According to Drever, there was some push back by some board members that Indigenous Peoples Day was defaming Christopher Columbus and Italian-Americans.
“The prerogative of Indigenous Peoples Day is not to defame a group, it’s not to exclude a group. It’s to bring a group of people into inclusion and into discussion and into the identity. If Italian-Americans want to celebrate on that day, that’s their prerogative but our business is not to defame Italian-Americans it’s to recognize indigenous peoples.”
Drever said that although this is a win for all groups involved, there is still work to be done.
“The fight is never going to stop until everybody is recognized and everybody feels that they have an equal shot toward recognition and a true reclamation of their own identity. But, this work has been going on for at least five years officially on campus and so to see that culminate in the way we wanted was just an excellent feeling.”
Indigenous Peoples Day takes place on the second Monday of October every year. NASA will run an event on that day, however, a plan has not been made yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An educational symposium and speakers are to be expected.
Local 3 News has reached out for comment from NMU’s Board of Trustees, Native American Student Association, and The Center of Native American Studies.