[STAFF EDITORIAL] Whose land are we on?

The+naming+is+a+problem.+It%E2%80%99s+a+form+of+erasure.+But%2C+it%E2%80%99s+not+the+only+one.
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[STAFF EDITORIAL] Whose land are we on?

The naming is a problem. It’s a form of erasure. But, it’s not the only one.

The naming is a problem. It’s a form of erasure. But, it’s not the only one.

Lara Cayci

The naming is a problem. It’s a form of erasure. But, it’s not the only one.

Lara Cayci

Lara Cayci

The naming is a problem. It’s a form of erasure. But, it’s not the only one.

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We don’t often think about indigenous people unless something significant is happening in the news or if a holiday is coming up—recently, Indigenous People’s Day in October and Thanksgiving next week. It’s been around a month since Indigenous People’s Day, and many people have already forgotten about it. Maybe it was the day after, or maybe it never set in in the first place, but the attempts at conversation about the controversial day have long ended.

It started with education. Each year, on the second Monday of October, elementary schools celebrated the holiday as “Columbus Day” and in some states, called school off. The day was spent learning about who crossed the ocean blue and in what year. 

Since then, the general perspective of Columbus Day has flipped. A majority of states—especially midwestern states, including Minnesota—have started to consider the holiday as one that should honor the people native to this land.

That’s progress, right? The culture is in the process of changing into something that acknowledges the most important narrative our country has been hiding. However, it just doesn’t start there. The biggest and hardest fix is to change the way we bias against indigenous people and how their stories are reflected in everything from our history books to today’s newspaper  

The most significant and frequently overlooked part of our past—Minnesota’s pastis that Minnesota lies in the middle of where indigenous territory is remembered to be. Home to larger tribes like the Dakota and Anishinaabe, (an umbrella term for Chippewa and Ojibwe), as well as other smaller tribes such as the Winnebago and Ottawa, Minnesota stems from the Dakota word: sky-tinted water. 

Even now, Minnesota is home to many indigenous communities and cultural landmarks. There are four Dakota communities in Minnesota and seven Anishinaabe reservations. Families are often seen hanging out at Minnehaha Falls and Minneapolis lakes like Nokomis and Bde Maka Ska, one of which had a recent name change, but the state government decided to change it back.

However, just because Minnesota has a strong indigenous presence in its history, it does not mean that we are necessarily tolerant or inclusive towards members of that community. A couple of years ago, when the Fort Snelling sign changed from “Fort Snelling at Bdote,” which refers to the Dakota word for the location Fort Snelling is in, the MN senate actually voted to cut off funds for the Fort, which didn’t actually happen, but says a lot about our community. Just a few weeks ago, hundreds turned out to protest a Washington NFL team. The name of this NFL team should not be said, according to Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, it “dehumanizes our people” despite remaining unchanged in our lifetimes (and likely the lifetimes of our teachers), which is an explicit jab at the indigenous community. 

The most significant and frequently overlooked part of our past—Minnesota’s past—is that Minnesota lies in the middle of where indigenous territory is remembered to be.”

And the naming is a problem. It’s a form of erasure. But, it’s not the only one. Each winter, we have an indigenous peoples homelessness crisis, where tents line the Franklin Avenue Corridor, which has just been brought to the state government’s attention last year Sexual violence against indigenous women is 2.5 times higher than any other group.

We can pat ourselves on the back for refusing to acknowledge Columbus Day and calling it Indigenous People’s Day, and we should grab a novel by Rebecca Roanhorse and Christine Day from the US library to read during the month. Next week, we might even decide not to celebrate the Thanksgiving narrative of community and friendship between the settlers and natives the same way we reject the Columbus Day narrative. Those are all good personal choices that build awareness. But what’s truly needed is advocacy. Choose an issue to care about: food or housing security, women’s safety, equal work / equal pay and approach it with a racial lens. Volunteer. Protest. Act.

Only then, will the narrative truly change.

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