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Leaders recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day

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indigenous peoples' day

WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- Indigenous leaders spoke out on the importance of visibility as governments recognized Indigenous Peoples' Day Monday.

Back in 2019, Wausau held a pow-wow to recognize the first year Wisconsin acknowledged Indigenous Peoples' Day. While COVID-19 has prevented a gathering the last two years, leaders say it's still an important day to reflect.

"Not to be proud of it as much as it's just so the children know that we were here and that we were worthy of what we have," said Tony Brown, an organizer with the Menominee Menikanaehkem group.

Both Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg and Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers issued proclamations recognizing the day.

"I think it's really important that we acknowledge that history. And there have been some hard things in that past," Rosenberg said.

But indigenous leaders say that recognition is only the first step.

"There's things that need to happen, and they start at a local level. Here in Wisconsin, making sure that act 31 is complied with," said Tricia Zunker, an associate justice of the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court.

President Biden also issued an executive order calling for the advancement of educational and economic opportunities for Native Americans.

The issue of government-run indigenous boarding schools also made global headlines recently, after hundreds of bodies of indigenous children were found in mass graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada.

"The inter-generational historical trauma that has occurred not just from the boarding school situation, but a large part of it, has to be addressed," Zunker said.

Brown said in order to heal from the tragedies of the past, people must be taught the truth.

"What we're trying to do is speak the truth about who was here. We were not ignorant savages resisting civilization. We were civilized people in a different way," he said.

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