MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN)- The sounds of traditional indigenous drumming and singing could be heard across Northern Michigan University’s campus as students, faculty, and community members celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday.
Center for Native American Studies and the Native American Student Association (NASA) collaborated together to remember indigenous cultures, languages, and histories.
“A lot of people forget that we’re in a state of colonization today. We have to remember all the genocide that happened. The lands that were disenfranchised from the Indigenous people are the same lands that we call the United States, Michigan, Northern Michigan University campus.” said Dr. Martin Reinhardt, Professor/Interim Director at NMU’s Center for Native American Studies.
NASA’s president, Bazile Panek, was also among those celebrating the holiday.
Panek is a tribal citizen of the Redcliff Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin.
He stated that Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a day of celebration, but also a time to remember and pay respects to their ancestors.
“It’s so important because these are voices that have been silenced through hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s important for us to voice our people and sure their voices are heard again,” said Panek.
Many states, including Michigan, recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. However, according to Bazile, for the past three years, the Center for Native American Studies and NASA has been at the forefront to try and get the NMU Board of Trustees to recognize the day as well.
Cody Mayer, president of ASNMU, stated that in an April 2019 poll, 89% of students voted in favor of recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
NMU Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Mahaney sent us the following statement, “The Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees fully supports the creation of an Indigenous Peoples Day celebration at NMU. Given the strong Native American heritage of the Upper Peninsula, it’s clearly appropriate that we do so. At our last Board meeting, we authorized the establishment of a committee to identify an appropriate celebration and date. We are working closely with ASNMU and look forward to bringing forth a formal proposal to the University community in the near future.”
Cody Mayer read a prepared statement during the ceremony, “Therefore, I, Cody Mayer President of the Associated Students of Northern Michigan University, do hereby proclaim that we the students of Northern Michigan University, recognize the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, signed under my hand on October 14, 2019.”
Local 3 News spoke with Panek on his reaction to Cody’s statement.
“Our Board of Trustees has fallen short in this, but I’m excited and so grateful for what Cody does and his connections that he was able to do this for our student body to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” said Panek.