Indigenous People’s Day and CMSAI

I talked recently to Nana Heaton about her role in Beloit Campus Mounds Sustainability and Advocacy Initiative, the group’s history, and what Indigenous People’s Day means and why it’s so important for us to celebrate it.

Elaina “Nana” Heaton helped found the Beloit Campus Mounds Sustainability and Advocacy Initiative in 2018, a group on campus that aims to educate the campus community about the burial mounds on Beloit’s campus and to dismantle the myths and misconceptions people have about them. Nana and a group of students from various backgrounds on campus - including CRIS students, Environmental Studies students, and Anthropology students - got together to form CMSAI, inspired in part by Shannon Fie’s Intro to Anthropology course and her work towards sustaining the Mounds. Their goals are largely centered around education - educating students about the mounds and why they’re important to respect and preserve, dispelling myths about them, and connecting the campus to more Native American culture and history. CMSAI also helps its members determine where their interests lie, and help them pursue that activism through events and projects.

CMSAI members have worked on many projects over the years the group has been active. Each year, they help to organize events and education during Indigenous People’s month, including a trivia event regarding Native North America. They have worked on several education projects, such as posters, table toppers, and stickers, to help dispel myths about the origins of the mounds and their creation. They have also worked to train tour guides so they can give accurate information regarding the mounds on campus. Graduated member Ilyssa Kosova created a tour of the mounds on campus. During the spring break of the last academic year, CMSAI took a group of students on a trip along the Mississippi river to visit various historical sites and museums relating to burial mounds and Indigenous history.

Indigenous People’s Day is officially recognized by the state of Wisconsin and the city of Beloit, both in 2019 and 2020. In Nana’s words, Indigenous People’s Day lets us bring Native culture and history to the forefront. People tend to think of Native Americans, and by extension the mounds, as a thing of the “past,” that only existed in history and aren’t relevant today. It’s important to recognize the history of Indigenous people, as well as to bring attention to contemporary Indigenous nations, artists, and culture, and to advocate for indigenous people in the present. It’s always important to learn about Indigenous culture, especially at a place like Beloit, where we have the constant reminder of our presence on Native land in the mounds on our campus.

The Beloit College Campus Mounds Sustainability and Advocacy Initiative, as well as us here at SSEC, encourage everyone to take time during Indigenous People’s Day to learn about Native culture and the history of the land that we are on. Several campus resources can be found below, as well as CMSAI’s Facebook Page and email for any interested in joining the group.

By: Jeremy Duval'23
October 12, 2020

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