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Metoxen delivers Land Acknowledgment address at UW-Oshkosh commencement

Submitted photo

Oneida Nation citizen and 2019 UW-Oshkosh graduate Nicholas Metoxen steps to the podium to deliver his Land Acknowledgement segment of the university’s commencement ceremony December 14. Metoxen recognized Chief Oshkosh of the Menominee Nation, for whom the city is named, and the Menominee and Ho-Chunk Nations whose ancestral lands are where UW-Oshkosh now sits.

Oneida Nation citizen and UW-Oshkosh graduate Nick Metoxen delivered a Land Acknowledgement address during the university’s 2019 Fall Commencement ceremony December 14. Metoxen, a 2015 graduate from West De Pere High School, recently completed an undergraduate double major with degrees in Spanish Language and Psychology.

“Many universities near Native ancestral lands are incorporating land acknowledgements as part of their commencements,” Metoxen said. “UW-Oshkosh implemented this at the end of last year and this was the first time it was used to open up the ceremony.”

The Land Acknowledgment speech was written by Metoxen, his classmate Trinaty Caldwell, along with UW-Oshkosh academic advisor Dennis Zack and anthropology professor Heidi Nicholls. All four speechwriters are members of Native communities from across Turtle Island. “This has a lot to do with raising awareness,” Metoxen said. “The legacy of the city of Oshkosh is that it’s named after Chief Oshkosh of the Menominee Nation and a lot of people don’t know that. These are also the ancestral homelands of the Ho-Chunk and the Menominee people and a lot of people don’t know that either, even though it’s right on every piece of mail they receive if they live in Oshkosh.”

Metoxen’s speech helped raise that awareness and more. “The speech went into honoring these ancestral grounds and the strength that indigenous people have shown worldwide,” Metoxen said. “The Land Acknowledgement helps explain where we are and how it encompasses all three UW-Oshkosh campuses. My shortened version (given at commencement) speaks directly about the Ho-Chunk and Menominee, while a longer version exists addressing all of Wisconsin’s First Nations communities.”

Like many college students, Metoxen switched his major as he became more aware of what the university, and the world, had to offer. “I went into college as a social worker major, switched to secondary education, and finally settled on psychology because I really began to learn to just study what I enjoyed taking,” Metoxen said. “I also started with French but also ended up in Spanish. But the psychology degree is pretty broad, and I read that roughly 60 percent of psychology majors end up getting hired by business corporations, so that was really appealing to me.”

What Metoxen also found appealing in his younger years was the option to attend college courtesy of the Oneida Nation’s Higher Education Department. “I’m the first person in my immediate family to do this,” Metoxen said. “I was just inspired by the fact that our tribe had this to offer and I felt it would have been irresponsible of me not to try it because it’s such an amazing resource. My parents have always been huge supporters of me, so I also wanted to do this for them. A lot of my professors, and American Indian Student Coordinator Dennis Zack, were also very inspiring to me as I got to see other indigenous men working all around me.”

Following the rigors of completing a double major, Metoxen will most likely take a much needed break from college life and look for employment in an area he thoroughly enjoys. “I’ve been a participant and worked with Oneida Experiential Adventures for several years now,” Metoxen said. “I’ve always been a fan of that program so hopefully I can get a full-time position with them as soon as possible. Although it’s not in my immediate future I do have my eye on the new Educational Doctorate Program in First Nations Studies at UW-Green Bay. But I definitely need a bit of a break first.”

Metoxen advises future college students to pursue what interests them. “Follow what you like and enjoy,” Metoxen said. “Like I said I switched my major several times, so just go and search and find something you really like. UW-Oshkosh was the perfect place for me because it was the perfect distance away from home but yet it was still close to home. Just take classes you enjoy because you don’t have to have it all figured out the minute you get there.”

Metoxen is the son of Maureen Metoxen and Frank Nicholas of Oneida.