Indigenous peoples’ rally on the UI Pentacrest for Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Indigenous peoples gathered at the University of Iowa Pentacrest for a Decolonization Rally on Indigenous Peoples’ day Monday.


Emily Wangen

Rally attendees hold signs during the decolonization rally on the Pentacrest on Monday, Oct. 15, 2019. The rally featured speakers and music.

Music flooded from the Pentacrest on Monday, attracting the curious eyes of students walking to and from class. As one man beat a drum and sang along, students stood in red shirts, and others carried colorful flags from indigenous nations just feet from the Old Capitol.

When the man finished his song, the indigenous people of Iowa and allies took the stage and the microphone for the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Decolonization Rally on Monday.

The University of Iowa Native American Student Association prefaced its presentation by burning sage and stating that the Decolonization Rally aims to honor the indigenous people who have lived in Iowa, who currently live in Iowa, and their ancestors.

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Speakers at the event spoke to pride in their heritage and acknowledgment by the community at large. Many speakers also discussed remaining issues faced by indigenous people, including the murder rate of Indigenous women — which is 10 times more likely than the murder of nonindigenous women nationally, according to a 2018 report from the National Congress of American Indians.

Emily Wangen
Cherie Haury-Artz holds signs during the decolonization rally on the Pentacrest on Monday, Oct. 15, 2019. The rally featured speakers and music.

Another concern that speakers raised was the “Blood Quantum” issue, a method designed to calculate the percentage of indigenous blood in a person that can affect whether or not they can officially join their tribe.

RELATED: UI students rally for Indigenous Peoples Day on the Pentacrest

In a proclamation, Iowa City Mayor James Throgmorton announced the city will now celebrate Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day. In a recent news release, the City of Iowa City said that, as an understanding of history changes, so must commemorative events.

While Columbus Day is still celebrated nationwide, several cities and states across the country are celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day in addition to or instead of the federal holiday —including Iowa City.

In the official proclamation, the city stated that “[Iowa City] strongly agrees with the proposition that Indigenous Peoples’ Day shall be an opportunity to celebrate the thriving cultures and values of the Indigenous Peoples of the Region.”

Emily Wangen
A crowd gathers to listen to speakers during the decolonization rally on the Pentacrest on Monday, Oct. 15, 2019. The rally featured speakers and music.

The proclamation also acknowledged the native lands and homes Iowa City was built upon — a subject which members of the Decolonization Rally addressed as well.

Native American Student Association Vice President Athena Schrock said many Native Americans face an identity issue.

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“In society, to be Native American, you have to be enrolled,” Schrock said. “That’s a big misconception. There are lots of Indigenous people who aren’t enrolled, but sadly that’s a norm for society. That includes turning away a lot of native identities that we can’t turn away. We can’t give up that culture.”

A major theme of the event was the plea for onlookers to “decolonize” their minds, which many speakers seconded, and Native American Student Association members wore T-shirts with the words.

President of the organization Dominique Badajoz spoke to this concept, referring to decolonization as a matter of openness, respect, and recognition.

Emily Wangen
Rally attendees hold flags representing various Native American tribes during the decolonization rally on the Pentacrest on Monday, Oct. 15, 2019. The rally featured speakers and music.

“Decolonizing your mind means to me that you open up, you respect, you understand what has happened before you, what has happened on this land that you are standing on that you have taken personally from the people who lived here before you,” Badajoz said.

The event opened and closed with an honor song from Meskwaki Tribe member Mikona, whose English name is Tyler Lasley. He said the song loosely translates to, “We think of you, we won’t forget you.”

“The educated people will know what Columbus did while he was supposedly discovering this area,” Lasley said.

Editor’s note: On Tuesday, The Daily Iowan ran a headline in print stating “Indigenous people call for an end to decolonization.” This headline incorrectly characterized the goal of the Indigenous People’s Rally. The Daily Iowan regrets this error.