They were here first. So, it’s satisfying to see Northern Michigan University will celebrate National Native American Heritage Month in November with presentations and other activities on campus.

This year already has been notable in this regard.

A new land acknowledgement sign on campus was unveiled to the public on Oct. 11, which was Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The theme for the day was “A Day of Healing and Celebration,” which marked the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that American Indians and Alaskan Natives had higher death rates due to the virus than any other group.

Planned too are an interpretive trail near the sign, located near Jamrich Hall and a wooded area, that teaches about the Anishinaabe people and their values.

Northern Michigan University is located on the ancestral homelands of the Anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy, so the sign and trail are fitting tributes.

To celebrate Native American Heritage Month, the NMU Center for Native American Studies has planned faculty presentations at the Peter White Public Library.

Upcoming events include: “Removal histories” by Martin Reinhardt today and “An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, with music by Waa Wi Ye Yaa, Nov. 15.

The Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center in Gries Hall is hosting a related exhibition titled “The 7th Fire: A Decolonizing Experience.” A day to “rock your mocs” will be held Nov. 15, and boarding school visibility week begins Nov. 22.

Other activities scheduled at the Center for Native American Studies in 112 Whitman Hall include a Beading Circle from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 11.

Although we expect that any of these activities would be enriching, people can learn about Native American culture on their own to understand more about issues affecting indigenous peoples.

Grace Challier, a professor with the Center for Native American Studies, spoke at NMU’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day ceremony at the new sign.

“As we heal our soul wounds, are demanding not only truth and reconciliation but more importantly, more tribal sovereignty,” Challier said. “As we practice sovereignty, we are able to form our own economies and foster healing through cultural revitalization and community building.”

All people need to understand Native Americans’ past to help create an inclusive community that benefits everyone.

November is a particular good time to start—and we believe that understanding should continue every day.