Further recognition needed from university for Indigenous communities
October 18, 2021
President Joe Biden proclaimed Oct. 11 to be nationally recognized as Indigenous Peoples Day. UW-River Falls celebrated this day, though may not be doing enough to honor it.
Wisconsin, along with several states across the U.S., had already been making the switch from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, since Christopher Columbus and many other European explorers brought violence to previously settled Indigenous communities.
UW-Madison celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day all month on campus, according to local news channel 3000. At UW-Eau Claire, the celebration in honor of Indigenous Peoples Day took place on Oct. 14. UWEC also has relaunched the university seal and land-use recognition statement that will be paired with the following statement: “I/We acknowledge that the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire occupies the sacred and ancestral lands of Indigenous Peoples. I/We honor the land of the Ojibwe and Dakota Nations.”
UWRF Faculty Senate approved in March a motion to update the land acknowledgement statement. It now states: “The University of Wisconsin‐River Falls seeks to form sustainable and fruitful partnerships with Indigenous nations of the area. We will purposefully and thoughtfully enrich our community with historical awareness of the local and national tribal nations. We seek opportunities for learning and relationships with all stakeholders, and through these partnerships, we commit to establishing a comprehensive land acknowledgement statement during the 2021‐22 academic year.”
Though the campus has made progress in recent years towards bringing more awareness to the Indigenous population, the Student Voice feels more needs to be done. Putting a spotlight on Indigenous communities should be a focus of the university year-round.
The campus recently built a statue of a falcon, hoping to start a tradition of rubbing its talon. We feel that it may be more useful to have a physical reminder of the Indigenous communities that once inhabited this stolen land.
We also feel that simply updating a land acknowledgement statement doesn’t do enough for Indigenous communities. The statement seems empty, since there is no evidence of the campus’s fruitful partnership with Indigenous nations of the area. The statement also fails to name whose land the campus is on.
The Student Voice thinks UWRF should have more information available around campus, perhaps a required course on the history of Indigenous people in this area. They also should work to develop a better land recognition statement, and possibly a statue to honor Indigenous people.
According to Native Land Digital, River Falls sits on the territories of the Wahpekute and the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ.