Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Indigenous People’s Day challenges Columbus Day preconceived ideas

UW Oshkosh will be hosting an event on Oct. 9 called Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day to promote Native American culture and commemorate the history of their people.

Indigenous People’s Day will be in Reeve Memorial Union from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. with events including graffiti artist Votan Henriquez giving presentations throughout the day—one of Henriquez’s creations being raffled off as a fundraiser for the Inter-Tribal Student Organization —and historian-speaker-writer Heather Bruegl will present: “Native American Activism: From AIM to the Struggle for Indigenous People’s Day” at 1 p.m. in Reeve Theater.

According to Coordinator of American Indian Student Services Dennis Zack, Indigenous People’s Day reimagines Columbus Day and changes a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to reveal historical truths.

This movement is part of a broader attempt to clarify the Italian explorer’s role in American history and connect indigenous identity to something more than controversies about sports teams and cultural appropriation, Zack said.

Zack said the main reason for celebrating this event is to commemorate what happened to indigenous people.

“The second Monday in October has long been celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States,” Zack said. “For many [it’s] a day off with parades, celebrations and shopping sales galore. In reality, the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 created colonialism, enslavement and the forced removals of the tribes that followed the ‘discovery of America.’ This is a big reason why at last year’s ITSO meeting the group voted to work on an event for this year.”

In addition, Zack said Columbus’ discovery of America brought negative, long-term effects on the Native American culture that still exist today.

“The systematic destruction of indigenous people for years to follow still has strong ripple effects on indigenous people: high poverty rates, disparities in education, health and socioeconomic status in our American Indian communities,” Zack said. “Too often our history books have erased the true history of this country and our indigenous people.”

President of the ITSO Nicholas Metoxen said this day is important to celebrate to bring back the Native American culture that was lost in the past.

“In my opinion, this day is about reclaiming [Columbus Day] as a day of celebration that indigenous people are still here and our culture is still alive,” Metoxen said. “For a long time this day has been celebrated in the name of a man who contributed to the genocide of an entire country’s culture. It may seem like a long time ago, but you can still see the damage done to the people and their culture to this day. Instead of celebrating in Columbus’ name, we thought this would be a much better way to celebrate the beautiful life and culture that is alive across Native America today.”

UWO student Ryan Steffes said he is interested in learning more about this movement being presented on campus.

“I have always grown up with Columbus Day as a holiday and about how he discovered America,” Steffes said. “I never thought about how the Native American tribes were affected by this, which makes me curious to go and see what Indigenous People’s Day is all about.”

Metoxen said he appreciates the fact UWO is helping to get the word out about what this holiday truly means to people.

“UWO actually decided to join us in the push to re-establish this day as Indigenous People’s Day about three years ago when we brought the idea to campus,” Metoxen said. “That is also when we hung the flags of the Native Wisconsin tribes in Reeve to join the rest of the flags in representing the diversity we have here on campus.”

To help get the word out to the public, Metoxen said everyone is welcome to participate and help spread awareness about Indigenous People’s Day.

“The best part is anyone can celebrate this day as we will be on campus on Oct. 9 as we have a graffiti artist coming to campus to help us spread awareness of this movement,” Metoxen said.

Overall, Zack said he is glad UWO has taken part in this movement, along with the impact the holiday is making around the world.

“A few communities through the U.S. have changed the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day,” Zack said. “This small movement is starting to gain momentum. As a university, we can help this movement continue to grow and work with the greater community in another step forward towards inclusive excellence.”

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