The second Monday in October has been celebrated as a national holiday since 1971, when it was designated as Columbus Day — but over the past several years, some states (including Minnesota) have chosen to adopt the term Indigenous Peoples Day instead, heeding calls from various indigenous culture groups not to celebrate Christopher Columbus, the Italian navigator the holiday is named for, whom they argued had brought genocide and colonization to communities that had been established for thousands of years in the land now known as the United States of America.

In 2019, Detroit Lakes Public Schools first began observe Indigenous Peoples Day by hosting a public celebration at the Historic Holmes Theatre, and while COVID-19 restrictions put a damper on continuing this fledgling tradition in 2020, the holiday was once again celebrated locally on Monday, Oct. 11, with an Ojibwe literacy event at both Roosevelt and Rossman Elementary schools.

For about half an hour, most of the 40-some students in Detroit Lakes High School's Ojibwe culture and language classes took turns reading to kindergarten, first and second grade students in 30 different classrooms at the two elementary buildings.

A trio of Detroit Lakes High School Ojibwe culture and language students read the book "Taku Wadaka He (What Do You See)?" to a classroom full of Roosevelt Elementary School second graders on the morning of Monday, Oct. 11, also known as Indigenous Peoples Day. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)
A trio of Detroit Lakes High School Ojibwe culture and language students read the book "Taku Wadaka He (What Do You See)?" to a classroom full of Roosevelt Elementary School second graders on the morning of Monday, Oct. 11, also known as Indigenous Peoples Day. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

Some of the books they read included "Bow Wow Pow Wow," "Jingle Dancer," "Sweetest Kulu," "Niimiwin — Everyone Dance," "Taku Wadaka He (What Do You See)?" and "Hungry Johnny."

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After they finished reading the books, the high school students answered some questions from their younger counterparts, and even asked a few of their own, such as "Have you ever been to a pow wow?" or "Have you ever done a jingle dance?"

According to Joe Carrier, director of American Indian education and activities at Detroit Lakes Public Schools, Monday's literacy event was part of an ongoing effort to integrate more Ojibwe language and cultural activities into the school district's curriculum.

Last Friday, Oct. 8, a dreamcatcher-making station was incorporated into the Detroit Lakes Middle School's sixth grade field trip to Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, with the photos from the event being posted on the DLPS Facebook page.

That same day, fourth and fifth grade students at Roosevelt Elementary School were treated to an Ojibwe drum and dance demonstration by brothers Jordan and Anthony Bloom, who are both students at the school.

"The boys mentioned to their teachers that they wanted to do something, and (the teachers) went to their principal, Trish Mariotti, who arranged for the demonstration," Carrier said, adding that it was filmed by the school district, with the intent of playing the video for all students in grades K-8 who hadn't had a chance to watch it live on Friday.