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Students and community members voice demands for U of M on Indigenous Peoples' Day

Oct 9, 2017

Students and community members marched on the University of Michigan campus Monday to mark Indigenous Peoples' Day -- an alternative to the Federal Columbus Day Holiday, which many see as a celebration of genocide. 

A pamphlet distributed by the marchers states that Christopher Columbus is "perhaps the most violent symbol possible for Indigenous communities". 

More than 60 Indigenous and non-indigenous participants made their way through the center of campus, chanting things like "No more stolen land!" and "No pride in genocide!" 

Sydney Grant is a member of the Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe and a social work student at the University. She says she feels like Indigenous students are underrepresented on campus. 

"I think a day like today is a really good time to do something like this and really call attention to our group."

The group has a very specific set of demands. They want U of M to acknowledge that it was built on a "land gift" gained through an inequitable treaty, the 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs. They also want official recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day, and better recruitment of Indigenous students.

John Petoskey is a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and a Law Student at the University of Michigan.

"The University needs to do more to recognize our history, make this a more welcoming place for Indigenous students, and do more to recruit Native students."

Indigenous Peoples' Day is officially recognized by one county (Washtenaw) and five cities (Alpena, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Traverse City, and Ypsilanti) in Michigan, and a total of 55 cities, four states, and three universities nationwide

None of Michigan's 15 public universities officially recognizes Indigenous Peoples' Day, but groups held marches or celebrations marking the day at Michigan StateGrand Valley, and Northern Michigan University. An ongoing campaign for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day in the Upper Peninsula is based at Michigan Technological University.