GV Celebrates Indigenous People’s Day


GVL \ Meghan Landgren

Mary Dupuis

On Monday, Oct. 14 the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Grand Valley State University held an Indigenous Arts Showcase to celebrate the Native culture on campus and draw more attention and recognition to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Local Native artists were contacted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs or reached out themselves, offering up their artwork to be showcased as a part of this brand new event at GVSU. The artists were excited and willing to introduce their differing styles of artwork, coupled by their shared passions for their respective heritages with the student body.

A total of five local Native artists as well as GVSU students who were interested in learning more about Native culture and witnessing an array of different art pieces gathered in the Haas Center for Performing Arts to be a part of two different events spread across the afternoon.

The primary event that was held was an art show that extended throughout the day from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Students could marvel at the artwork and bring forth any curiosities and comments they had to the artists themselves as they examined the room.

GVL \ Meghan Landgren

At 2:30 p.m., during the art show, a presentation that was approved for Lib 100 and 201 took place. Here, the artists were asked a number of questions to answer in depth and in front of a large group with open minds and eager ears.

Following this portion of the showcase was a time for the students to ask the artists any questions that they formulated throughout the discussion.

Once all of the questions were answered, students were able to revisit the artwork that they heard so much about. This lead to an opportunity for students to engage in deeper conversation with the artists about their heritage–and especially the different reasons for their work.

For many of the artists, the ability to explore such meaningful conversations with those in attendance was their favorite part of the event.

“…They feel something from (my artwork), a sense of peace or a sense of connection. Then, often that will cause somebody to start talking to you about the work. Then, it’s through the conversations that they can begin to get a deeper understanding of where my work comes from,” said artist Jason Wesaw. “In that, they learn about our tribal communities that are here and have always been here.”

Artist Brooklyn Lipponen agrees, and feels that talking to and making conversation with the students is the only real way to get the point that they are trying to make across.

Our communities and our people are still living and thriving in today’s world.

— Jason Wesaw

“I think that the discussion was very beneficial. There’s no other way to describe things to people besides actually speaking to them; because people can interpret your art as much as they want but telling them what you meant is the biggest thing,” Lipponen said.

The artists said  that they draw inspiration from their culture and the environment around them, and it helps them heal the intergenerational trauma that they and their people have had to face for so many years. It is this perseverance and willpower that the artists hope shine through their artwork to the students looking upon it.

“I hope that the students here took away a lot of the cultural knowledge and history, as well as the acknowledgment that Native people are still here, and that we are around campus. This campus is even built on Aniishanabe land,” Lipponen said.

Wesaw builds on this in claiming that students are probably unaware of how much contact with Native people they truly have. He hopes that this event brought about a stronger awareness of Native people and the issues that they continue to face in everyday society, as he believes that that is the first step to creating change.

GVL \ Meghan Landgren

“I think just a deeper awareness of Native issues in today’s world is needed. A greater awareness of the fact that students that they’re probably sitting with in class are Native and other students may not even realize it,” Wesaw said. “So, really just the understanding that we’re still here, even if we are a bit in the shadows. Our communities and our people are still living and thriving in today’s world.”

An afternoon of exploration and immersion at GVSU shone a light of celebration on the culture and artwork of the Native people, creating a memorable and informative experience for all on Indigenous Peoples Day.