Zunker heads effort in changing October day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day

By Ken Luchterhand

     From now on, the second Monday in October in Wausau and the rest of Marathon County will be known as a day to acknowledge Native Americans, their culture, and the contributions they have made to society.
     The Marathon County Board unanimously approved a resolution on May 28 to declare the day “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” formerly known as Columbus Day.
     Similarly, Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke made a proclamation for Wausau.
     Ho-Chunk member and Wausau School Board President Tricia Zunker was the person who spearheaded the effort to get the name of the day changed. Zunker also serves as Supreme Court Justice for the Ho-Chunk Nation.
     “It’s kind of a no-brainer,” Zunker said. “What’s the controversy? Recognizing the original inhabitants of the area and acknowledging the diversity, different cultures, traditions, and customs. Why would that be controversial?”
     Zunker had no resistance by any of the city and county committees or boards of the proposal to change the name of the particular day.
     “I was a little concerned somebody might speak up against it, but at the educational meeting last Thursday I gave public comment, and nobody spoke up. I only heard support, there was only support for it,” she said. “And then, that night there was also an opportunity for the county board supervisors to speak on it and, again, it was completely supported from the county board supervisors that did speak up.”
     In recent years, many communities across the nation have changed the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. For some people, the celebration of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Western Hemisphere is offensive.
     Zunker would like to continue to make the efforts for recognition of this day at a statewide level as it would encourage more people to observe the significance and contributions indigenous people have made in society.
     “I thought I was going to take a break, but this morning I was already contacting Governor Tony Evers’ office urging a statewide proclamation,” she said. “And I also contacted my local state representative, Pat Snyder, because I’m a constituent, but then I also contacted Senator Lena Taylor on this because I know this is something that’s of interest to her. She got back to me right away by email.” 
     Indigenous Peoples Day will be recognized in Marathon County on October 14, 2019, just after the area’s inaugural Indigenous Peoples’ Day Powwow, scheduled for October 12 and 13 at Wausau West High School.  In addition to Zunker, Ho-Chunks Bruce LaMere, Dylan Prescott and Connie Radtke formed a non-profit, Central Wisconsin Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee, and have been planning this powwow since January 2019.  Governor Evers, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, and Senator Lena Taylor have been invited to attend.