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  • Traditions of Service

    November is National American Indian Heritage Month. Nationwide, there are 372 treaties and 13 supplements ratified between Native Americans nations and the US, which highlight the unique government-to-government relationship that has existed for centuries.

    In 1915, Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a member of the Seneca Nation and director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, NY, advocated to set aside a day for the “First Americans.” Also in 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. We look back on these single days as the laying the groundwork for the heritage month of today. A number of presidents from Calvin Coolidge to Barack Obama have made proclamations regarding Native American heritage celebrations. And in 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as National American Indian Heritage Month.

    Celebrations and awareness

    This month is an opportunity to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Indigenous peoples from the Pacific Islands, Alaska, and the mainland US. We also acknowledge their important contributions to our nation and the world. For example, Native Americans brewed tea from willow trees to alleviate pain, which produced salicylic acid in the body, the ingredient for aspirin. The Haudenosaunee (the Six Nations or Iroquois) Great Law of Peace is the oldest living democracy on earth. It has been called, “in both principle and form,” the model for the US Constitution. It is also an occasion to be intentional about learning, discussing and engaging with Indigenous peoples and their nations. Finally, it is also a time to bring awareness to the atrocities, challenges, and betrayals that Indigenous people have experienced, and continue to experience, at the hands of those who occupy their lands.

    At Michigan Tech, we acknowledge that our University is built upon the lands of the Anishinaabeg Ojibwa and that it is incumbent upon us to cultivate a relationship with our neighbors that honors their history and traditions.

    A history of military service

    Additionally, Native American Heritage Month coincides with Military Family Appreciation Month. This connection is strengthened by the enduring record of Native Americans in the military. Native Americans have served in or with the US military since colonial times. The Haudenosaunee vigorously supported the British against the French and their native allies in the Seven Years’ War. The Haudenosaunee continued to support the British during the American Revolution, which resulted in the tragic march of General John Sullivan upon the orders of George Washington to bring about “total destruction and devastation of their settlements” and “to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent their planting more.” Sullivan carried out his mission to its fullest. And many Haudenosaunee died in the bitter winter that followed.

    Yet, Native American support for the military continued throughout American history. Ely Samuel Parker of the Seneca Nation was commissioned a lieutenant colonel during the Civil War, where he served as adjutant and secretary to General Grant. He is known for writing the final draft of the Confederate army surrender terms. Parker later rose to the rank of brevet brigadier general and eventually became the first Native American Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

    Chester Nez was an American veteran of World War II. He was the last surviving original Navajo Code Talker who served in the United States Marine Corps in the Pacific during World War II. Along with 28 Navajo Nation members, Nez helped create a code based on the complex, unwritten Navajo language. The code primarily used word association by assigning a Navajo word to key phrases and military tactics. The Code Talkers participated in every major Marine operation in the Pacific and were critical to the victory at Iwo Jima and other battles in the Pacific. At the end of the war, the Navajo Code remained unbroken. On July 26, 2001, Nez was one of the five living Code Talkers who received the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush.

    Deep patriotism

    Native American military service might seem paradoxical. But Kevin Grover of the Pawnee Nation and director of Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian says Native Americans believe that “this land is still ours” and have “a deep patriotism, a belief that, despite all that has happened, the United States can be better, and we want to be part of that.”

    May we all partake of this attitude of healing and progress. We can all take steps to make our nation more equitable and inclusive for everyone. Visit the National Museum of the American Indian’s new online exhibition Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces. Check out the Institute for Policy, Ethics, and Culture page on Western and Indigenous Sciences and works by Indigenous authors at the Van Pelt and Opie Library.

    The 133rd. Motor Transport Company. Camp Mitchell, South Dakota.,1929 [Photographs and other Graphic Materials]; Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75; [online version available through the National Archives Catalog (National Archives Identifier 285696) at; November 3, 2021].

    America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion

    October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and all members of the Michigan Tech community are encouraged to participate. The purpose of NDEAM is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The History

    The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

    “Our national recovery from the pandemic cannot be completed without the inclusion of all Americans, in particular people with disabilities,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation’s success, and are more important today than ever. We must build an economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.”

    Graphical illustrated map of the US with diverse individuals outlining the outer map edges. Text reads: America's Recovery Powered by Inclusion, National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
    Office of Disability Employment Policy’s 2021 NDEAM poster

    For specific ideas about how the Michigan Tech community can support National Disability Employment Awareness Month, visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s NDEAM webpage. Suggestions range from simple, such as putting up a poster, to comprehensive, such as hosting a disability education program for your department. We all play an important part in fostering a more inclusive workforce, one where every person is recognized for their abilities — every day of every month.

    ‘Copper Planted Seeds’ Artists to speak at Michigan Tech

    Ashanté Kindle and Khari Turner will come to Michigan Tech next week to discuss their joint exhibit, Copper Planted Seeds, currently on display at Finlandia University. With “Seeds”, Kindle and Turner seek common ground between the history of the Keweenaw Peninsula and their life experiences as Black American artists. The theme of their exhibit is “sisu,” or human grit and determination, in the face of daunting circumstances.

    Los Angeles, 1963

    I was born in Los Angeles, and in 1963 I experienced the greatest moment of my childhood when the Dodgers won the World Series in a four game sweep over the New York Yankees. The city was euphoric. Little did I know at the time that this joy was built on the pain of a once-vibrant Latinx community. Chavez Ravine would be the eventual site of Dodger Stadium. Through eminent domain and other coercive means, most of the ravine’s residents were dislocated for a housing project that eventually stalled. The land was later conveyed to the Dodgers in 1958. As a result, the authorities forcibly removed families from the homes built by their grandparents.

    Diversity Council Reorganization Will Enhance DEIS Communication

    To strengthen Michigan Technological University’s communication on issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging (DEIS), the University’s Diversity Council has been given a new charge. Effective fall 2021, the Diversity Council will serve as a communication hub between the leaders of colleges/major administrative units and the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI). This charge was developed with the purpose of coordinating policies and issues that impact goals related to DEIS at Michigan Tech.

    Why do we Celebrate Pride Month?

    Guest Blog by Erin Matas

    June is recognized as Pride Month—and with the increased visibility of the rainbow flag as a sign of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) pride, it’s hard to miss. But why do we celebrate Pride in June and what’s it all about? What is Stonewall?

    In 1969, The Stonewall Inn was a popular New York City gay bar. Regulars included trans women of color, gay men, queer homeless youth, lesbians, professionals, students, and folks in drag. It was an eclectic and exciting environment for drinking, dancing, and socializing. 

    DEIS Alumni Advisory Board Announced

    Alumni house at Michigan Tech.
    The Alumni House at Michigan Tech.

    Michigan Technological University is proud to announce the launch of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Sense of Belonging (DEIS) Alumni Advisory Board in fall 2021. A testament to the University’s continued commitment to enhancing and improving the sense of belonging for all at Michigan Tech, this initiative is the next step in giving our campus community the culturally-responsive resources to succeed.

    What is Juneteenth?

    The summer season in the US includes several holidays celebrated widely across the nation—Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. But do you observe Juneteenth? Have you heard of this day, short for June 19?

    Current American history textbooks proclaim Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the end of slavery. Truth be told, slavery remained relatively unaffected in many places, most prominently in Texas. It was status quo for slaves well beyond the Proclamation date—they carried on with their lives of bondage and subjugation oblivious to the fact they were legally free. It was nearly two and a half years later, on June 19, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War had ended, slavery was abolished, and enslaved people were now free.

    Student DEIS Commission to be Launched

    Michigan Technological University is committed to enhancing and improving the sense of belonging for all students, and a newly created commission of students aims to reinforce these efforts. With facilitation from the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI) and the Dean of Students (DOS), the Student Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Sense of Belonging (DEIS) Commission is set to launch at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. This initiative will provide an open space for student leaders to engage with and address ongoing issues pertaining to the campus climate and the needs of diverse communities on campus. Specifically, the Student DEIS Commission will provide the opportunity and space for students to:

    • Advance and elevate student DEIS concerns and initiatives
    • Facilitate open discussion and champion progress toward an inclusive and welcoming campus environment for all members of the campus community
    • Engage with University leadership to voice priorities and the pulse of the student body related to DEIS matters
    • Collaborate with other campus organizations, offices, and students, faculty, and staff to further a sense of belonging among all people at Michigan Tech.

    Telemental Health in Support of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

    Beginning in the fall 2021 semester, the Center for Student Mental Health and Well-being (CSMHW) will begin offering telemental health services through Morneau Shepell, a well-respected leader among providers of mental health services to college students. Morneau Shepell’s MySSP (Student Support Program) will help Michigan Tech meet the needs of all students and address significant issues that have prevented students from obtaining these services in the past.