National Indigenous Panel motives audience to learn

Thomas Bowman
Staff Writer

Minnesota State University, Mankato hosted the Indigenous People’s Day Celebration Panel Monday in the Centennial Student Union. 

There were four panelists present to answer various questions asked about the importance of Indigenous People’s Day. 

Megan Heutmaker, the director of the American Indian Affairs at MNSU, moderated the event. She presented several prepared questions that brought out informational, and sometimes emotional, responses from the panelists. 

One panelist, Steve Tamayo, discussed how many Native people are curious about what happened to their relatives and their people. He said, “Every day is sacred to indigenous people.”

The names of many landmarks and places in Mankato often have Native American origin. The name Mankato originates from the Dakota word “Mahkato”, meaning Blue Earth. The city would be called “Mahkato” if not for a spelling error made in the naming of the township.

Megan Schnitker emphasized on the importance of putting in the effort in learning about the indigenous people with accuracy. She said, “The goal is to teach the history that is not in the history books.”

The panelists supported the idea of learning about the culture by communicating with indigenous people themselves.

During questions from the audience, an important question came up pertaining to how a non-indigenous person should communicate with their elders regarding interracial relationships.

According to the panelists, it is important to be understanding and respectful about other cultures and their beliefs. It is also important to understand that it’s not easy to change the way a person thinks. Vannesa Goodthunder, one of the panelists, said, “There was a lot of racism back then, and there’s a lot of racism today. It just looks a little different.”

Another panelist, Elizabeth Skye, said it may be more difficult to introduce new ideas to the elderly, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt to try. A good step forward is introducing those ideas to younger people who still have open minds. Skye said, “What can I do to put the seed into younger mind?”

Moving forward, the panel motivated everyone to spread the knowledge that they had gained.

“The books are not their stories. When the stars fall we know someone’s coming back home,” Tamayo said. “Come to them with an open mind, a good heart, and open hands. The greatest gift you can give anyone is your time.”

Header photo: Steve Tamayo speaks at the Indigenous People’s Day Celebration Panel in the Centennial Student Union Monday, Oct. 14, 2019 in Mankato, Minn. (Prasad Pol/MSU Reporter)

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