Indigenous Peoples celebration

Bridget Maxwell

More stories from Bridget Maxwell


Photo by Amber Thomas

Visit the Council Oak tree outside of the Nursing building on lower campus to see the ceremonial site for the Ojibwe and Ho-chunk tribes.

The UW-Eau Claire-Barron County campus is hosting an Indigenous Peoples Celebration from 12:30-3 p.m. on Oct. 14. 

This event is followed by the “Thursdays at the U” talk regarding “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives” by Dr. Renee Fralewicz. 

There will be native food, beverages, and drumming by the Lac Courte Oreilles school group. The speaker’s Paul DeMain, Edmund Manydeeds and Jon Fritz will start at 2 p.m. following a tobacco smudging. 

This is a free event held to appreciate and learn more about Indigenous customs, cultures and disparities. It will also include the presentation of 12 tribal nation flags now permanently being a part of the Barron County campus. 

Gabriel Herman, a third-year education student, felt this opportunity is great for an education major like herself in order to gain an understanding of different races other than her own. 

“As a future educator, being able to know other customs and cultures is important for the classroom,” Herman said. 

When Herman was younger, she felt there was a burden of education placed on her for being the only practicing Jew. There was little to no inclusion of other cultures at her school, which meant she was held responsible as a child to educate her peers. 

Sarah Bobb, a fourth-year student, said this was the first she had heard of this event. She said there should be more advertisements for such important events.

“Continuing inclusivity and ensuring these events still occur is important in growing a tolerant community,” Bobb said. “There are very few opportunities to celebrate indigenous peoples on this campus, which is unfortunate since we are on stolen land.” 

Ali Liffrig, the International Program Coordinator and Interim Student Life and Events Coordinator at Barron County campus, addressed the limited representation for Native students at school. 

Liffrig said it was very important to her that students feel accepted and comfortable in their skin. She said she will continue working on building trust with the diverse students on campus. 

“There are three different tribes within an hour of campus, yet we have very few native students,” Liffrig said. “Clearly, this shows we aren’t doing a good job.” 

According to Liffrig, representing cultures other than the majority on campus is an important step in helping marginalized students feel comfortable and wanted on campus. Unfortunately, UW-Eau Claire has had many problems with racism in the past and present.

A student in Towers South was a victim of a hate crime when a slur was written on her door. The football team had a group chat that solicited hate speech and used the lynching of black men as a joke. 

“This event is important for our diverse students and white students because it will increase your understanding of different cultures,” Liffrig said.  

Liffrig said this student body needs more inclusion and diversity. Ignorance is at the core of these hate crimes. This university needs to take more steps in educating the unknowledgeable.

In Liffrig’s opinion, Indigenous Peoples Day is important not just for the celebration of natives but also for the correct narrative being presented. Christopher Columbus deserves no respect or honor for the multitude of injustices he caused. 

Liffrig believes we must correct the inaccurate historical account of Columbus and the negative impact this holiday has had on Indigenous peoples. Ignoring the truth only reinforces racism and ignorance. 

“Representation matters,” Liffrig said. “Bringing these flags to campus is a commitment to do better in the future.”

Maxwell can be reached at [email protected].