Winona State celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Allison Mueller

Junior art education student Sanja Petrashek writes 1 of 568 federally recognized tribe names on a mural next to the End of the Trail statue on campus to honor Indigenous People’s Day on campus Monday, Oct. 10. The structure is planned to stand until the end of the semester. (Photo by Allison Mueller)
Junior art education student Sanja Petrashek writes 1 of 568 federally recognized tribe names on a mural next to the End of the Trail statue on campus to honor Indigenous People’s Day on campus Monday, Oct. 10. The structure is planned to stand until the end of the semester. (Photo by Allison Mueller)

Cheney Mason / Winonan

Celebrating the diversity behind everyone’s culture was the theme of Winona State University’s first Indigenous People’s Day Monday, Oct. 10.

“Each and every one of us has a background. We all have a history of our people,” according to Virgil Mountain, who led the opening ceremony during to mark the beginning of the day.

Winona State welcomed dozens of faculty, students and families to the East Hall of Kryszko Commons to kick off celebrations of Indigenous Peoples’ Day with an opening ceremony.

The days events included workshops, a symbolic planting ceremony for Winona State’s Indigenous Learning Garden led by an university administrator and the Turtle Island Student Organization, a tour of the End of the Trail Statue, performances and the signing of the proclamation.

“Today I want to pray not for separation but for unification,” Mountain said during the opening ceremony prayer. “We have to support each other.”

According to Winona State English professor Chuck Ripley, the students were the main force in bringing the day to the university.

“It was a long day in coming,” Ripley said. “I thank all the students for making this day a reality.”

Winona State and Minnesota State College — Southeast Technical had a proclamation signed by Winona State President Scott Olson and Mayor Mark Peterson marking Indigenous Peoples’ Day to officially be the second day in October.

Peterson said his role was to read a proclamation with both Winona State and Southeast Tech along with a separate proclamation on behalf of the city.

“It was a pleasure to do so,” Peterson said. “It’s an important thing to recognize the Indigenous Peoples.”

Peterson added how the general public has a lack of understanding about Indigenous Peoples’ history.

“I’ve learned a lot, especially since the Dakota Gathering started 13 years ago,” Peterson said. “Something like this goes a long way.”

Ripley add that he thinks students will be able to learn a lot about themselves as people from the day’s events and workshops.

“Their history and how their history has impacted other people… where we still have these myths of the frontier, especially for European Americans, and we don’t understand, we don’t learn about or relate to indigenous people whether we’re talking about Native Americans or other groups,” Ripley said.

Ripley explained during the opening ceremony that this day is very important for not only the Indigenous Peoples but for the community as a whole.

“The best experiences of my life have been when I’ve been getting to know people who are different than I am,” Ripley said. “So that’s important for every student to do.”

-By Cheney Mason