Gustavus embraces Native American Hertiage Month

Leah ThompsonStaff Writer

Native American Heritage Month is celebrated annually in the United States during the month of November to both honor Indigenous people and to acknowledge that this country was built on stolen land.

As Gustavus has continued to acknowledge its settler history, there has been a much needed push to create educational conversations and events surrounding reconciliation with the Dakota community open to students, faculty, and the greater St. Peter community.

During the month of November the President’s Council on Indigenous Relations (PCIR) and the National Endowment for the Humanities is sponsoring seven events for Native American Heritage Month.

On Sunday, Nov 6 in Christ Chapel, Gustavus welcomed Lakota pastor Dr. Kelly Sherman-Conroy to campus. Dr. Sherman-Conroy is a Native American theologian and works as an instructor in the Religion and Philosophy department at Augsburg University.

The next event for Native American Heritage Month was Monday, Nov 7 in the Wallenberg Auditorium. This event was a film screening of the Dakota 38 + 2 documentary that detailed the Dakota 38 + 2 Wokiksuye Horse Ride that commemorates the Dakota Massacre of 1862.

For the third event for Native American Heritage Month pastor Sherman-Conroy was welcomed back to campus at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov 8 in Christ Chapel. During Chapel break Dr. Sherman-Conroy shared personal stories about her family and memories from her childhood.

“Native Americans only make up .8 percent of the population, that’s why it’s so important to understand and hear our stories,” Dr. Sherman-Conroy said.

Between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov 8 in the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE) there was a Q & A with Dakota elders Wilfred Keeble, Staff Carrier and Josette Peltier, a spiritual leader who help organize the annual memorial ride.

The two elders shared stories and encouraged those in attendance to learn about Dakota history through a Dakota perspective. The elders also shared how people can support the riders during the final Dakota 38 + 2 Wokiksuye Horse Ride. There is a QR code linked to a GoFundMe on the Native American History Month poster for those interested in donating.

Dr. Sherman-Conroy led another event on campus at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov 8 in the Konferensrum to share stories and create community connections.

“We need to think about what our calling is as an academic institution and how it’s our responsibility to share [Indigenous] stories as a settler college,” Director of Church Relations and Gustavus Chaplain Grady St. Dennis said.

Starting at 11:00 a.m. on Friday Nov 18 in the President’s Dining Room Taylor Rose Payer, a curator and art historian from the University of Minnesota will be giving a talk called “Indigenizing Institutions.” During her talk she will open a discussion surrounding museums as sites of Indigenous memory, cultural renewal, and artistic engagement.

A PhD student and Anishinaabe scholar, Rose Payer is currently in the process of researching Native women textile artists and the global circulation of Indigenous art from the Great Lakes region. Additionally, she’s curated, researched, and had educational roles at many art museums across the United States.

The “Indigenizing Institutions” talk is part of an ongoing series that the Department of Art & Art History at Gustavus is highlighting about interpretation, display, and the storage of art by Native American artists.

“We are creating digital resources to interpret the items we have and are creating a plan for how we might store and display some of these artworks and artifacts so that more classes and community members can continue to learn through material culture,” Professor of Art & Art History Colleen Stockmann said.

The seventh and final event that the PCIR is sponsoring for Native American Heritage Month will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov 30 in Beck 201. This event will be a re-screening of the Dakota 38 + 2 documentary along with a discussion after the film. This re-screening is part of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology’s monthly film series.

Throughout the month of November there will be many events surrounding the Dakota people and both their history and perspective to build a sense of community. All events are free to students and faculty, and are also open to the public.