Indigenous peoples day

Lydia Westedt, News Reporter

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The first-ever statewide observance of Indigenous Peoples Day in Wisconsin gives well-overdue recognition to the first people who lived here, Inter-Tribal Student Organization President Tatum DePerry said.

DePerry said Gov. Tony Evers’ executive order to honor the holiday alongside Columbus Day on Oct. 14 was extremely important to indigenous peoples in Wisconsin.

“Indigenous Peoples Day means strength and, most importantly, resilience,” DePerry said. “Indigenous people are so strong and have gone through horrendous things, but yet we stand here generations later.”
“It was a great moment in our state’s history to stop celebrating a person who committed mass murders and other heinous crimes against a people and a culture that were not discovered, but were living a very prosperous life,” Dennis Zack, coordinator of American Indian Student Services at UWO, said.

Coinciding with Evers’ declaration, Oshkosh Mayor Lori Palmeri declared a city-wide observance of Indigenous Peoples Day.

Palmeri said the proclamation required many phone calls, revisions and perseverance.

“This was a collaboration between the 4-H group requesting it, a fellow council member, myself, city staff, the ITSO office and the Menominee tribal office,” Palmeri said.
Zack said Indigenous Peoples Day was a huge step in the right direction.

“Wisconsin has a rich history of American Indian culture and calling this area home well before 1492,” Zack said.

Brad Larson, director of the Oshkosh Public Museum, explained that both Menominee and Ho-Chunk nations are native to the area. Many surrounding municipalities like Neenah, Menasha, Algoma and Winneconne are Menominee names.

“They are the original occupants of what is now Wisconsin,” Larson said. “The creation stories of these two tribes do not include any migration stories, indicating they have always been in Wisconsin.”
The wars of the fur trade era combined with eastern immigration forced many tribes to relocate in Wisconsin, Larson explained.

“The Lake Winnebago region was an important area to the native peoples because of the incredibly rich resources found here, especially wild rice and fish,” he said.
Menominee Park, located in Oshkosh on the shore of Lake Winnebago, honors Chief Oshkosh of the Menominee Indian nation with a bronze statue.

“The sculpture in the park was done at the height of the Romantic movement, by a European artist, and does not accurately depict a Menominee man, let alone Chief Oshkosh,” Larson said.
According to Zack, the statue’s physique isn’t the only historical inaccuracy.

“Former Mayor Steve Cummings and the Chief Oshkosh Task Force have been working hard with the Menominee Indian tribe to change the plaque on Chief Oshkosh in Menominee Park as it basically states his biggest accomplishment was giving his name to the City of Oshkosh,” Zack said. “The City of Oshkosh has been doing great work in recognizing the contributions of American Indians.”

With the recent addition of a nine-credit Indigenous Studies Certificate at UWO, Zack is hopeful that this will lead into a minor or major at some point in the future.

“We hope that this leads to other ethnic studies programs as well, which will only increase the knowledge, understanding and acceptance on our campus,” Zack said.
Zack believes having a Land Acknowledgement on campus was another monumental movement.

The Land Acknowledgement, a statement recognizing the land as having belonged to the ancestors of the Ho-Chunk and Menominee Indian nations, is to be read at all major events at UWO, including graduation.

Zack said that two current UWO students, Trinaty Caldwell from the Menominee Nation and Nicholas Metoxen from the Oneida Nation, helped create the Land Acknowledgement.

Students are encouraged to learn more about Native American culture by attending the Hall of Fame Powwow on Nov. 2 in Albee Hall.

The ITSO will also be hosting an event called “Ask an Indian” on Nov. 21. The event includes a student panel, takes place before Thanksgiving and will debunk any myths and stereotypes regarding Native American culture, DePerry said.

The Oshkosh Public Museum has a long-term exhibit called People of the Waters, which gives an overview of Native American history in the area.

“The exhibition will provide a good overview of 10,000 years of occupation, and the media section shows how dramatic climate change impacted prehistoric people,” Larson said.
Students with an ID can view the exhibit for $6.