SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Nearly 100 people traveled from across the state to ask legislators to pass laws regarding issues in the community.
They had speakers from the community on a variety of topics, including: traditional regalia at graduation, use of Native American mascots, Native American history education in schools, support for Native Americans in urban areas, and renaming Columbus day to Indigenous Peoples' Day.
State Senators Suzy Glowiak Hilton and Laura Fine as well as State Representative Maurice West spoke at this event. They all committed to leading a push for legislative action regarding these issues.
The summit was led by the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative. It includes 16 organizations that represent more than 280,000 Native Americans across Illinois.
Organizers say a key issue they want to address is the lack of curriculum regarding Native American history.
"There has been so much erasure of the history of Native people in this country," said Pamala Silas, of the Menominee and Oneida Tribes of Wisconsin and the Associate Director of Outreach and Engagement at Northwestern University's Center for Native American and Indigenous Research. "In fact, 87% of schools either teach zero, or pre-1900 issues on Native Americans."
Silas was one of many educators who attended the event today to speak about the importance of changing what is being taught in K-12 schools. Lisa Bernal is a Program Manager at the Chicago Public Schools American Indian Education Program. She says that Native American students are unrepresented and forgotten.
"We need to also represent our diversity in our student body," said Bernal. "We have Native American students in the classroom, but nobody ever acknowledges them... stereotypes and misrepresentation has made us feel like we look one particular way with braids and long hair, and we all don't."
She says making Indigenous Peoples' Day a statewide Holiday is important to show the impact of Native Americans on the founding of the United States.
"Indigenous Peoples' Day is about reclaiming our history with this continent and addressing the erasure and invisibility we face," said Silas. "It's about lifting up our communities, which is so important for this country."
After a press conference with representatives, the group gathered on the stairs of the capitol rotunda to sing, dance, and play drums. The performance gathered a large crowd of capitol guests, who stopped to record the scene.
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