Recognizing Indigenous Peoples' Day

Guest blog post by Lauren Gaines McKenzie, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

For many years, Native American and Indigenous (NAI) communities have called our attention to the customary celebrations of early colonizers like Christopher Columbus. However, Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of The Americas was the result of brutal and devastating loss of Native American life, culture, and heritage. While some continue to recognize Columbus Day, we choose instead to join the State of Michigan and countless cities and states across the nation in observance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The United States’ history of disenfranchisement of Native American Indigenous, and other historically marginalized communities, will take many lifetimes to make amends. Although, as a nation, we have made great strides towards ‘liberty and justice for all,’ we are reminded daily of the work that lies ahead in order to achieve it. Part of that work involves uplifting and affirming those whose voices are often muted or dismissed.

It is critical that we take account of and recognize the sacrifices and contributions of NAI communities. Our campus is built on land that was wrenched away from them. On Indigenous Peoples' Day, we should take time to reflect and renew our commitments to Native American and Indigenous communities and celebrate their culture and contributions.

There are countless ways to uplift the contributions of Native American and Indigenous community members, starting right here in ComArtSci. Elizabeth LaPensée, Assistant Professor in the department of Media & Information, creates and studies Indigenous-led media. Beth is Anishinaabe with family from Bay Mills, Métis, and Irish, and she brings a rich history and compassion for Indigenous issues to her work. Beth has designed an award-winning 2D adventure game, When Rivers Were Trails (2019), which follows a displaced Anishinaabe during allotment in the 1890’s. I hope you would take the time to learn more about When Rivers Were Trails by engaging in this interactive experience. We recognize and celebrate Beth, who has won the Guggenheim and other awards for her talents as a designer and researcher, and for her continued contributions to the field.

Please take advantage of the other opportunities to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day, and to honor Indigenous colleagues, students, and community members. Today is only one day, but it is a great day to begin.

  • Kick off Indigenous Peoples' Day with a commitment to honor native land. Join us on Monday at 10 AM for Understanding the Land Acknowledgement*. All are welcome, no registration required
  • Join NativeMSU Community members for a virtual welcome and Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration, Monday October 12 at 6PM
  • Explore Beth’s game, When Rivers Were Trails, and download it for free to try at home.
  • Check out the resources and upcoming events offered by American Indian and Indigenous Studies


*We collectively acknowledge that Michigan State University occupies the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the Anishinaabeg – Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples. In particular, the University resides on Land ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw. We recognize, support, and advocate for the sovereignty of Michigan’s twelve federally-recognized Indian nations, for historic Indigenous communities in Michigan, for Indigenous individuals and communities who live here now, and for those who were forcibly removed from their Homelands. By offering this Land Acknowledgement, we affirm Indigenous sovereignty and will work to hold Michigan State University more accountable to the needs of American Indian and Indigenous peoples. – Land Acknowledgement developed by AIIS