UMD Celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Receives Visit from Commissioner Olson

DULUTH, Minn. – UMD celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day with a visit from Minnesota Office of Higher Education Commissioner Dennis Olson.

Held at the American Indian Learning Resource Center, the Commissioner met with native students to hear about some of the issues they face as well as what resources brought them to UMD.

“It was incredibly important for me to hear that our financial aid programs are working and serving the students that they are intended. So, we heard from a student who’s utilizing the Fostering Independence grant program as a former foster youth, that was important to hear. A student that’s taking advantage of the Minnesota Indian Teacher training program, that was also incredibly important. You know the more that they can advocate for, you know their financial aid need, the more I’m able to then take that to the legislature and work with the Governor to make sure that all native students are served and really all students are served by our financial aid programs if they have need,” Minnesota Office of Higher Education Commissioner, Dennis Olson said.

Commissioner Olson is a UMD alumni and a member of the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He says Indigenous Peoples’ Day is all about visibility and recognition.

“It’s an opportunity to be seen and heard and recognized. We hear from students today that they had the opportunity to share their own knowledge. They said they talked through the book from Docter Anton Treuer, “Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians, But Were Afraid to Ask”, and I think Indigenous Peoples’ Day just gives folks a platform to be able to share really what it’s like. What it’s like to be native and to break down some of the stereotypes and some of the pre-misconceptions or misconceptions I guess about what it’s like to be native,” Olson said.

The Minnesota OHE’s primary responsibility is to oversee and administer all state and financial aid programs. This visit to UMD was part of the commissioner’s tour across Minnesota to learn about the current state of higher education.

There is a ten-year statewide higher education goal in mind for 70 percent of Minnesotans ages 25 to 44 to attain a post-secondary credential beyond high school.

“We need to make sure that we put, you know, really all resources we can into assisting native students if we’re truly going to meet that attainment goal not only for the statewide number but also if we are going to meet it equitably for each race and ethnicity, particularly native students,” Olson said.

The Commissioner’s tour will continue across the northwest part of the state, including visits to three tribal colleges: Leech Lake Tribal College, White Earth Tribal and community College, and Red Lake Nation College.

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