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Superior recognizes first Indigenous Peoples' Day

Korii Northrup, right, talks to Superior Mayor Jim Paine during a proclamation on Wisconsin Point on Monday afternoon. Jed Carlson /

For the first time, the city of Superior is recognizing the people who came first to the land where the city was built.

Mayor Jim Paine proclaimed Monday Indigenous Peoples' Day in Superior, recognizing the Anishinaabe people who first settled the land where the city lies. The proclamation comes as some celebrate Christopher Columbus' discovery of the present-day Bahamas.

"Columbus was the spearhead guy for colonization, and colonization had really damaged our people," said Korii Northrup, a member of the Fond du Lac tribe. From murders and massacres to putting indigenous people on reservations and taking away their cultures and religion, Northrup said, "colonization for us isn't the freedom that most Americans enjoy."

Northrup said in school, growing up, Columbus Day would be the one time people noticed she was Native American.

"To me, Columbus Day continues oppression," Northrup said. "Columbus to us is a murderer, so celebrating a murderer doesn't make sense. That would be like having Charles Manson Day."

Northrup said that colonization has taken indigenous people's ability to live by the seasons, and gather things — rice, sugar bush — being forced into a lifestyle that doesn't agree with us.

"We're not linear types of people," Northrup said. "We're circular types of people ... it's a different visual concept of the world."

Northrup expressed gratitude and spoke briefly in her native language to those gathered at the historic burial site of her people as the mayor presented her with tobacco and the two read the proclamation declaring Monday, Oct. 9, Indigenous Peoples' Day in Superior.

"Megwich," Northrup said, thanking the mayor for reaching out to her to help write the proclamation.

While Northrup credited the mayor, Paine was quick to give credit where due, stating that the idea of proclaiming Monday as Indigenous Peoples' Day in Superior came from Councilor Jenny Van Sickle.

"As an indigenous woman myself, we were taught as kids to celebrate Christopher Columbus, without any real context of historical events," Van Sickle said. "I think it's important ... it was really important for Jim and I."

Van Sickle said Gary Johnson, director of the First Nation Center and associate professor of First Nation Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, reached out to her and Chancellor, Renee Wachter who made a similar proclamation on campus.

"I just thought we should do that," said Van Sickle, who is herself native Alaskan. "I just thought we should support them. This was an opportunity to be part of something really historic ... to lift up other people."