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Photo provided by Winsome Chunnu-Brayda.

American Indian Heritage Month brings discussion of timely topics

On Tuesday at 7 p.m., Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University and author of 19 books, will be hosting a talk via Teams in honor of American Indian Heritage Month. The talk will delve into topics revolving around cultural appropriation, land acknowledgement and sports teams changing their mascots.

The talk is titled “Sovereignty in Sacred: Sharing our Rights and Cultures,” and Treuer said the talk will be interactive, encouraging students to engage in conversation.

“There's a discussion ongoing at Ohio (University) about use of Indigenous land acknowledgement, so we'll be talking about that,” Treuer said. “We'll be fielding questions from whoever's there. In the past, those questions have been wide-ranging from current hot button, political, social activism topics to searching ones about Indigenous cultures and languages.”

Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, director of the Multicultural Center, said this talk is an effort to educate the campus on what’s going on nationally and globally. Chunnu-Brayda said the three topics covered were picked due to their current timeliness.

“One of the things we are seeing that's coming up is issues around land acknowledgement  because a lot of institutions now are in the process of creating land acknowledgement to acknowledge the people who were on the land or own the land before we came here,” Chunnu-Brayda said. “Cultural appropriation is an issue that we've been grappling with for centuries, so that is always topical and even more so usually around Halloween time. And then, of course, a lot of sports teams are still grappling with changing their mascot.” 

Treuer and Chunnu-Brayda are looking forward to bringing both a personal and academic approach to this topic. 

Chunnu-Brayda believes these types of events are crucial for students to better educate themselves. If students are educated on the topic, they can take the knowledge to their workplace, families and friends, Chunnu-Brayda said.

Treuer said education systems usually don’t know how to frame questions about this topic, which can be detrimental to understanding. He said problems don’t solve themselves, so it’s up to the people of today to sort it out. The event provides an opportunity to advance the knowledge and understanding of one another so that it is easier to do in the future.

“Young people today get to inherit not a blank canvas that they can paint on but one that's been painted on for generations before them,” Treuer said.

Azaria Greene-Williams, a junior studying community and public health, said the event is needed in order to continue learning more about these principal topics.

“I feel like for us as college students, even from personal experience, I feel like we're not always privy to a lot of information about what it means to be Native American and some of their struggles,” Greene-Williams said.

College is a place where one can continuously grow and learn, which is important for students like Greene-Williams. 

“There's no negative side to going out and to learning and putting yourself in a space to be open minded and take in this new information,” Greene-Williams said. “Because, at the end of the day, you'll come out with new thoughts, and you'll be able to share those with others and see how that applies to you and put that perspective into other situations.”

Anyone is able to register for the event and can do so online.

“We are preparing our students to be global Bobcats,” Chunnu-Brayda said.


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