MU Celebrates Native American Heritage Month
Assistant Teaching Professor Joseph Erb likes to ask his students, “Whose land are we on?” In the three semesters Erb has been with the College of Arts and Science’s digital storytelling program, he says not a single student has answered correctly.
“One of the things we do as indigenous people is when we go to places we ask, ‘Whose indigenous community is from here?’” Erb says. “If you give a speech, you honor the indigenous people by acknowledging them. We are on Otoe Missouri land, and the Osages are close, and different indigenous people are from this area, but most of them have been removed into Indian Territory, which is now Oklahoma,” Erb says. In fact, he says approximately 23 different indigenous nations are connected to Missouri either as their home, hunting lands, or via forced removal across this land, including Erb’s own Cherokee Nation, which was forcibly moved south during the infamous Trail of Tears. Erb honored their plight by taking young Cherokees on a bike ride across the Trail of Tears during the summer months when he ran the “Remember the Removal” program for the Cherokee Nation.
Erb thought the university should celebrate Native American Heritage Month as a way to “acknowledge these events and acknowledge the people they happened to,” so he contacted Interim Dean Patricia Okker, who enthusiastically agreed to support his efforts to create a campuswide observance this year. Erb has invited a variety of indigenous artists, filmmakers, leaders, academics, and people who deal with tribal sovereignty to campus to celebrate the contributions and achievements of indigenous people.
“There is so much you can learn from indigenous cultures that is still relevant today and will benefit the student body, the faculty, and the community,” Erb says. “It will be an exciting month for indigenous people and for the university to have these well-respected people come on campus to share their culture, their knowledge, and talk about who they are today.”