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Interview with Joe Cadreau on the Indigenous People’s Day Action this Saturday in Grand Rapids

September 15, 2020

GRIID – What was the motivating factor behind organizing the We Are Still Here action for this Saturday?

Joe – The city has buried this resolution in committee after committee for the last 4-5 years. There has been no communication from the city or the group it claims to be working with,  as to where or why this resolution has sat idle. 

Also this past summer the city adopted Juneteenth in a matter of 2 days , without any public comments,  or committee input etc.  Many elders in my community felt shunned because of this and reached out to me.

GRIID – In Grand Rapids, there has been an effort since the late 1980s to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. Why do you think Grand Rapids is so resistant to the idea?

JoeGrand Rapids would be forced to admit the inequity that they are responsible for creating in my community.  We can look through the history of the city and see time after time where they removed us, and forgotten us. Just look at the westside , and the Ford museum.  

Grand Rapids is not as diverse as it claims to be , they have done all they can to keep the white power structures in place, from administration to administration,  this one is no different. 

I don’t think people realize or fully understand the effort and power that the families have in this city. It baffles me why this resolution has taken so long and been buried for so long.  I wrote the Indigenous Peoples Day Resolution  at GVSU in 2017 and it was passed and adopted by the university. We thought for sure that would have been a catalyst to getting the city to pass the Resolution that have had for years. 

GRIID – Have you received any push back since you announced the We Are Still Here action?

JoeYes I have both internally and externally. That is why it was important for me to make this event inclusive and a work of allyship. 

GRIID – Why is having an Indigenous People’s Day so important for both the anishinnabek community and for everyone else?

JoeIt is the first step in truly creating equity for the indigenous people of this area. Michigan is one of the most populated states with a native presence and population. Columbus is the symbol of colonization and white supremacy. 

GRIID – Having an Indigenous People’s Day would be a good first step, but what else needs to change for people to come to terms with Settler Colonialism and do you see this action as a catalyst to make even larger demands?

JoeThere are many things that need to change in relation to the city and its relationship with the anishinnabek community. First thing that needs to change is funding for social programs for indigenous people.  We are often forgotten or never mentioned in these social programs that the city develops or implements. The continued purge of dollars and space from the GRPS NAEP needs to end and be fully funded. Those are just a few things , but there are many issues that my community faces in this city on a daily basis. 

The city also needs to realize and understand that one organization can not fulfill all the gaps in the anishinnabek community. They need to offer Grant’s to other native led organizations that do important work as well. 

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