Written by Brad Karger
In May, the Marathon County Board declared the 2nd Monday in October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Marathon County” and encouraged residents to learn more about the history of Indigenous People and to celebrate their culture. (See a brief overview here.)
The Marathon County Board will be learning more about the history of Indigenous People in Marathon County at their October 17, 2019, Informational Meeting through a special presentation by History Professor Brett Barker of the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point at Wausau.
I invite you to attend the October 17, 2019, County Board meeting and listen to Dr. Barker’s presentation (or you can watch his presentation online via live stream at Wausau Area Access Media’s Government/Education Channel 981 or view the recorded video on the Marathon County Board Meetings YouTube channel).
It’s important that we all know how Indigenous People in Marathon County were treated as a result of government policy. I only recently became aware of the government policy of “de-Indianization.” Under this policy, special boarding schools were established in Keshena and Lac du Flambeau with the intended purpose of ridding young native men of their cultural traditions and molding (assimilating) them into the dominate, White culture.
I invite you watch this episode of American Experience on “The U.S. Government’s Education of Native American Children.” It’s truly eye-opening.
Additionally, on October 12 and 13, 2019, there will be a powwow (organized by Tricia Zunker and a group of volunteers) at the Wausau West Field House that will include food, music, crafts, dance, and a history of Indigenous People in Wisconsin. Admission is free and the public is invited. Get further details about the Inaugural Central Wisconsin Indigenous Peoples’ Day Powwow on their Facebook page.
Learning more about the history and culture of our Marathon County neighbors can be key to building a diverse community where all people feel understood, respected, and included. That is precisely what the County Board was working toward when it adopted Resolution #R-28-10 (PDF) (see page 23) declaring the 2nd Monday each October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Marathon County,” as well as a number of other resolutions falling under the broad umbrella of embracing diversity and developing it as a strength of our County.
Attending one or both of these upcoming events celebrating Indigenous People may push you to expand your horizons and help you recognize and respect “ways of being” that are not necessarily your own.
Here are some examples of things I learned about Indigenous People that I know they didn’t teach in the History classes I took in high school:
- There are multiple ways to address Indigenous People: Native Americans, Natives, American Indians, Aboriginal . . . the list can go on. It’s ideal to use the name of a specific tribe or nation — like Ho Chunk, Winnebago, or Ojibwa.
- There are 560 federally recognized tribes, and each has its own identity and culture.
- Land is not just property to Indigenous People. For native communities, land transcends the value of property and it functions spiritually. As best I understand it, to many native people, land is a living entity and not something to exert ownership over.
- The Indian Wars resulted in horrendous tragedies like the Trail of Tears and the Wounded Knee Massacre. The history can be hard to hear, but it’s important that we all share an accurate portrayal of our own history in order to move forward and build a stronger future.
- There are 324 federally recognized reservations, and as of 2001, only 22% of Native Americans live on them.
By the end of October, I expect to have a longer list — and maybe a better understanding of the list I already have.
Please consider joining me at the October 17 County Board Informational Presentation — and the October 12–13 powwow — to see what your list of insights looks like when you’re done. The powwow promises to be both educational and FUN!
Come on . . .
Get out of your comfort zone.
Meet some new people.
Learn more about our shared history.
Try some unfamiliar food.
Enjoy the pageantry.
I hope to see you there!
Then, afterward, come back to this article and learn about other powwows in the state here.
Marathon County Administrator
In his Administrator role, Brad Karger leads an organization with 700+ employees and an annual budget of more than $162 million. Brad has been in leadership positions with Marathon County for the past 30 years. He is known statewide for generating innovative ideas and solutions to problems, openness and transparency, and a commitment to community service that extends well beyond the normal workday. Email Brad Karger.
You might also like…
- Marathon County Government Leaders to Participate in Learning about Why Race Matters
- Rural Schools in Marathon County See Expansion in Cultural Diversity
- “I’m Glad You Asked . . .” The Top-5 Questions People Ask the Marathon County CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION BOARD
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