As Grand Valley State University celebrates its seventh annual Indigenous Day, many members of the community are using this time to heal rather than celebrate.
In the past year, media coverage has highlighted the abuses suffered by Native American children in boarding schools across the United States.
In response, GVSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs is hosting a presentation on American Indian Boarding School Policy. On Monday, October 11, Susan Cross, Associate Professor Emeritus of Michigan State University’s School of Social Work, will review American Indian Boarding School policy from 1870 to the 1980s and its effects. As a member of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe, Cross will discuss historical and intergenerational traumas and the healing value of Aboriginal communities during these dark days.
Overall, the Indian state has chosen to take this time to create healing spaces in response to impending reports ordered by the US Department of the Interior regarding American Indian boarding schools. These principles have profoundly guided the observance of this year’s Indigenous Peoples Day at GVSU. Dr. Cross’s presentation is set to be a reflection of these guidelines. For those interested in attending, the Office of Intercultural Affairs requests that they fill out an RSVP form on their website.
Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations are relatively new on the GVSU campus. Since the Student Senate only voted to recognize Indigenous Day at GVSU in 2017, the principles of the holiday are still unknown to many. While the first Monday in October is known in many places as Aboriginal Day, Columbus Day is still a public holiday celebrated across the United States on the same day.
“Columbus Day is taught in such a way as to create this romantic version of the discovery of America when, in fact, it was the beginning of a long era of very oppressive law for genius people,” said Belinda Bardwell, OMA Events Coordinator. “GVSU’s Creative Peoples Day is a way to redirect attention and focus to the true origins of America in a way that celebrates Indigenous communities.”
This holiday comes with many sentiments for the indigenous community, as the mistreatment of their ancestors is the subject of discussion. Recognizing this, GVSU has worked to create their Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations to be spaces of healing for the indigenous community, while raising awareness of the injustices committed against Native Americans.
“Because Grand Valley has a campus and as a Board of Trustees has accepted the holiday as Indigenous Day, we now feel we can use this day as a way to pick a topic and use it as a learning moment about a topic,” Bardwell said. A lot of attention is paid to boarding schools, and with that interest comes the intergenerational trauma catalysts, with all the negative effects that boarding school has had on us as people.”
GVSU chose to acknowledge the idea that trauma is passed down between generations unless it is acknowledged and worked on as a focal point of their conversations for this year’s Indigenous Day, Bardwell said. For more information about the event or to respond to the call for attendees, please visit gvsu.edu/oma.