ASU celebrates Native American Heritage during November

Native American Month A man dressed in traditional Native American clothing prays at the opening ceremony of a powwow event on ASU's Tempe Campus last year. The month of November will highlight Native American Heritage Month. (Photo by Dominic Valente)

Native American Heritage Month will kick off for the first time this November across all four campuses. Spearheaded by the American Indian Council, an umbrella organization for Native American organizations at ASU, the month’s activities will include lectures, a talent show, a triathlon, a movie screening and other community events.

American Indian Council co-facilitator Ruben Cuk Ba’ak said although events had been planned for November in previous years, it was nice to receive more recognition under Native American Heritage Month.

“For Native Americans, we’ve always been in the backdrop and we’re rarely involved in conversation at ASU,” he said. “We’re the first people of this continent, and I think it’s important that it’s put out there that we’re still here.”

Cuk Ba’ak said fall, with Columbus Day, known at ASU as Indigenous Resistance Day, and Thanksgiving, is perhaps a time in which Native Americans are reminded most of the past.

Rather than focusing on the negativity surrounding this history, he said the goal of the month’s activities is to educate and promote student involvement in Native American culture.

“A lot of students are under stress and struggling to get bills paid (and) work done,” he said. “We want to host events that provide a good atmosphere for students to have fun, eat and interact. The events are open to the public, not just to ASU.”

The first event planned for November will be a movie screening of documentary “Young Lakota." The film chronicles the lives of three people living on the Lakota reservation in South Dakota and will be hosted by the American Indian Council as well as the Womyn’s Coalition. A student panel will discuss the film’s political and cultural themes after the screening.

American Indian Council historian Diedra Vasquez said the Veterans Day Traditional Pow Wow at ASU West would take place Nov. 8 and Nov. 9. The event is open to the public and has proven to be popular among community members as well as ASU students in past years.

“The Pow Wow is basically a gathering of American Indians with traditional dancing and singing,” she said. “It’s a get-together where there’s local artwork, and vendors selling jewelry and food.”

Vasquez said “NDNtube,”a film festival of shorts made by students, will take place Nov. 22. The idea behind the festival was to promote films with Native American themes as they relate to culture, food or the arts.

She said she hoped the month’s events would break some of the stereotypes surrounding Native Americans and instill a greater respect for Native American culture.

“I hope non-native students learn more about American Indian tribes," Vasquez said. "In North America we have over 565 tribes. Even now, around Halloween, there are people dressing up in native attire. It’s not us; we don’t wear feathers. Some tribes don’t live in tepees. I want people to notice that we’re more than this.”

American Indian studies graduate student Justin Hongeva said the council has been planning activities for Native American Heritage Month since September. Like Vasquez, he said he hoped the month’s activities would educate, as well as reach a larger audience.

“I really would like to reach out to all four campuses and to those native students that rarely come around,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know we still speak our traditional languages, that we still have our traditional ceremonies (and) that we still believe in our traditional religions.”


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