University of Michigan students marched Monday to demand the school take more steps to respect Native Americans and acknowledge its tenuous history in the first year of Ann Arbor’s official recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day.
Earlier this year, Central Student Government passed a resolution encouraging the University to recognize Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day. CSG representative Ayah Issa, an LSA junior, said the University has agreed to include Indigenous Peoples Day in the next round of University-printed calendars and planners
John Petoskey, a Native student in the Law school, said the progress isn’t enough.
At the March of Indignation Monday, Petoskey strove to raise awareness on unjust history between the University and indigenous people.
“We wanted to shed light on how the University was established through the removal of Potawatomi people from this land and the treaty of Fort Meigs, as well as the establishment of the U of M Biological Station, which was established subsequent to the burning of an Ottawa village in Burt Lake by the County Sheriff,” Petoskey said. “Several people died, and that happened in 1902 and the bio station was established in 1907. So we went to different points around campus and discussed their historical significance.”
The march stopped at the School for Environment and Sustainability, a plaque commemorating the Native American “land gift,” and the Michigan Union, to discuss Michigamua — now known as the Order of Angell — a senior honor society that came under fire for appropriating Native artifacts and rituals.
The other goal of the march was to articulate demands towards the University regarding their treatment of the Native American community, which makes up 0.8 percent of the student body.
“The treaty of Fort Meigs, which established the land on which this University sits, has a clause in it that guarantees education for Native American youth,” Petoskey said. “So our concern is increasing American Indian enrollment, and we want the University to establish a position in admissions or another relevant department to work with tribal communities, schools and colleges in order to recruit and retain Native American students.”
Petoskey also said a goal of the march was to build up the community of both Native American students and people of color more broadly. To accomplish this, they reiterated Students for Justice’s demand the University establish a Central Campus multicultural center.
Issa, who was instrumental in the passing of the CSG resolution, said she found the demands of today’s march very reasonable.
“The University of Michigan prides itself on being inclusive and making people feel welcome, and if these demands can be met, as long as they’re not hurting other people, then why not?” Issa asked. “There’s a bad history there, and if the U of M can do its part in sort of helping indigenous students feel more welcome, then I think this is a great thing. I think this is an amazing initiative.”
Petoskey said he found the march today to be an uplifting experience and seemed optimistic for what the future held.
“I’ve been really humbled and amazed by how dedicated student are on this campus, particularly students of color, to fighting for justice and not settling for any less,” Petoskey said. “I think that it’s a beautiful thing when we support each other, and I’m really indebted to all the organizers who worked to make tonight a possibility. And I would encourage the rest of the student body to participate in civil disobedience and protest whenever possible, because it’s what makes our democracy worth fighting for.”