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Indigenous Peoples Celebration scheduled at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: A drumming ceremony will be part of the Indigenous Peoples Celebration at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County.

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire – Barron County is honoring the original inhabitants of the land where the campus now sits in Rice Lake with an Indigenous Peoples Celebration on Thursday, Oct. 6.

Dr. Abbey Fischer

Dr. Abbey Fischer

“We are lucky enough to work on some beautiful and bountiful land here in Rice Lake,” says Dr. Abbey Fischer, UW-Eau Claire – Barron County campus outreach director and associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “While it belongs to Barron County now, it originally belonged to Indigenous people. We are honoring the heritage of the land and remembering we weren’t the first ones here. It’s important to remind our campus community and our local community to honor those who came first.”

The celebration begins at 12:30 p.m. with a “Thursdays at the U” presentation by Kristin Welch, titled “Healing and Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.” The presentation by Welch, founder and executive director of Waking Women Healing Institute, is free and open to the public in the Blue Hills Lecture Hall in Ritzinger Hall. The presentation also will be livestreamed.

Gary Wheeler

Gary Wheeler

“I think it’s a topic that is very easily forgotten,” says Gary Wheeler, student life and operations coordinator at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County. “This is our chance to honor and really highlight an underserved population that is really close to us in the Rice Lake area.”

Following Welch’s presentation, a drumming ceremony and smudging ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Meggers Hall Commons.

Fischer and Wheeler will provide the welcome after the ceremonies, while Welch and Paul DeMain, board chair of Honor the Earth, will be the co-keynote speakers for the event. Others scheduled to speak are UW System Board of Regents President Karen Walsh; Amy Blumenfeld Bogost, Board of Regents vice president; UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt; Catherine Emmanuelle, director of UW-Eau Claire’s Center for Racial and Restorative Justice; UW-Eau Claire student Maddie Blong; and representatives of tribal nations of Wisconsin.

This is the second year of the celebration and UW-Eau Claire – Barron County officials want it to be an annual campus event. The inaugural event last year dedicated flags on campus to honor all of Wisconsin’s tribal nations.

“It’s not enough just to hang flags and call it a day,” Fischer says. “It’s almost too easy to walk by the flags and not think about what they mean. This is a reminder that our mission at the UW-Eau Claire – Barron County campus is providing people an opportunity to interact and talk to one another about this topic and many others.”

The “Thursdays at the U” series is supported by the UW-Eau Claire – Barron County Foundation. For more information about the series, contact Dr. Linda Tollefsrud at

For more information about the Indigenous Peoples Celebration, contact Gary Wheeler at