Indigenous People's Day

MANKATO — Organizers had a short window to plan events surrounding Mankato’s first Indigenous People’s Day in 2018, so they spent the time since expanding programming for year two.

Rather than educational programs on just the day itself like last year, groups planned a full weekend’s worth of events leading into Monday’s commemoration.

Megan Schnitker, a Lakota and Indigenous People’s Day Committee member, said this year’s plans are closer to what organizers had in mind when the Mankato City Council designated the holiday.

“We didn’t have as much time to get really anything big off the ground,” she said of last year. “So this year it was about making it more accessible to the community.”

The intention is to have either music or film screenings Friday, Saturday and Sunday before a Monday panel at Minnesota State University focusing on the day’s significance. Poor weather could keep the music slated for Friday at the Hub Food Park from happening, but the other events are indoors and will commence.

The Mankato City Council designated the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day rather than Columbus Day in June 2018. Schnitker said the decision was a step toward recognizing previously overlooked historical perspectives.

“It’s not to erase or replace history but also to be able to share the indigenous perspective of history that’s often been unshared,” she said.

MSU was ahead of the city in observing Indigenous People’s Day in 2014 following a vote by the Minnesota State Student Association.

Megan Heutmaker, director for American Indian Affairs at MSU, said the day used to be marked by informational sessions at Centennial Student Union. The university partnered with the committee to expand programming off campus this year, while retaining a presence on campus through the event Monday evening at the student union.

The off-campus happenings include screenings of the film “The Past is Alive Within Us” Saturday and Sunday at Spotlight Theater and the Blue Earth County Historical Society.

In the hopes of having a wider community presence, the committee is also encouraging businesses to display window signs declaring “We honor Indigenous People’s Day.”

The signs are a way for organizations to show solidarity with and raise awareness of indigenous peoples, said Committee Member Briana Baker. In a community with such a painful history of treatment toward them — Mankato was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history when the government sanctioned the hangings of 38 Dakota men in 1862 — she said the signs would show the community cares about learning from its past.

“(They) send a message to indigenous communities who have been hurt and neglected in so many ways that we’re working on it,” she said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it.”

For the latest updates on this year’s events in Mankato, check out the Indigenous People’s Day Mankato Committee’s Facebook page.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola