University celebrates Native American Heritage month

10/27/2009 | By: Mary Hunton  |

With November comes more than just autumn colors and several holidays. The Center for Student Cultural Diversity at the University is also celebrating Native American Heritage month. On Nov. 6, from 5-8 p.m. The Center is holding its “We Tell Stories” event in the Joe Crowley Student Union Ballroom. Through this event, Kari Emm, the advisor of the Native American Student Organization (NASO), hopes to raise awareness about the American Indian culture on campus.

“Usually our traditions are passed on by storytelling. Through the American Indian culture, that’s how we pass on our traditions,” Emm said. “We want to educate the non-native population about our culture so they can celebrate is as much as we celebrate it.”

There are many aspects of the American Indian culture tied into the “We Tell Stories” event, from traditional music and dance. There will also be a guest speaker who will address the issues facing American Indians in universities today.

“Our keynote speaker is Maryls Hubbard,” Emm said. Hubbard graduated from the University with a masters degree in social work and now works in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Our numbers are very low here at the University as well as nationwide. A lot of it is how we were raised, especially those of us who have been brought up on an Indian reservation. It makes it really hard to overcome some of those barriers we have to get over, and so she’s going to talk about that.”

Other than that, there will also be a silent auction. With traditional items donated by various sources in the community, Emm expects a good outcome.

“We are getting such a great return on our auction items,” Emm said. “We have Pyramid Lake Paiute museum donating something, we have local artists that are donating, we have traditional baskets, we have traditional beadwork. There’s a lot of great stuff.”

The event is free of charge though donations will be accepted, and all proceeds made will go toward the sixth annual Powwow on May 1 and 2.

“It’s a $15,000 event so we continuously have to raise money for it,” Emm said.

However, the “We Tell Stories” event is not the only thing that The Center and NASO are doing this month. On Thanksgiving Day there is a dinner provided for students who cannot return home for the holiday, and in response to the low American Indian numbers at the University, they are also holding an American Indian Youth Summit on the Nov. 13.

“Each year we have a youth conference for American Indian students and it’s trying to get them into college,” Emm said. “A lot of the students will just drop out of school because they don’t go ask a question. That’s my job, to kind of be an advocate for them.”

Events such as “We Tell Stories” and the Powwow are important to the Native American community both on and off campus. Not only do these kinds of cultural celebrations help draw in new students, but they also help keep American Indians who are already enrolled in the University from dropping out.

“When you see your culture,” Emm said, “when you see people wanting to see you here, it makes a difference. I can see the dynamics changing.”


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