The significance of Native American Heritage Month at IU

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As always, there’s a lot happening on our campus as we head into November, but one thing I believe is extremely important to highlight, this year and every year, is Native American Heritage Month. While many Indiana University students have somewhat of an understanding of Native American history, this month—and the entire calendar year, to be quite honest—should be used for all of us, including faculty and staff, to learn more about contemporary issues within Native American society.

One of the programs the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA) is responsible for, the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center (FNECC), is helping us increase the awareness of topics relevant to Native American culture. At IUPUI, the American Indian Programs—which encompass the IUPUI Native American Faculty Staff Council, Native American Student Alliance at IUPUI, the Native American Connections community outreach program, and Native American & Indigenous Studies, the academic studies program at the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI—are more examples of how IU strives for diversity and inclusion on all of our campuses.

I hope this month can be an educational opportunity for the entire IU community to become more engaged about issues involving Native Americans and indigenous people worldwide.

I encourage IU’s students, faculty, and staff to take part in the events of Native American Heritage Month and even after November ends, continue to have meaningful conversations about the contemporary aspects of Native American culture

Nicholas Belle, Director of the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center

Native American Heritage Month at IU Bloomington combines a celebration of the current culture with awareness of conditions that affect the Native American community. A month-long slate of events includes: Steven Paul Judd, an artist and filmmaker of Kiowa and Choctaw heritage, screening his latest film, “Ronnie BoDean”; a lunchtime speaker series at the FNECC; an Indian taco sale fundraiser for the American Indian Student Association; the 10th annual film series at the IMU’s Whittenberger Auditorium; workshops on beading and basket-making; a storytelling session; and events and talks on campus with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the Phi Beta Kappa Lecture Series, co-sponsored by the FNECC. And if none of the events fit your schedule, you can still participate by wearing moccasins to class or work during “Rock Your Moccs!!” week, Nov. 13-19.

 One change to IU’s Native American Heritage Month this year is that the Annual Traditional Powwow will move from the fall to the spring. The FNECC has outgrown the space for the popular event, so it will be held at IU Bloomington’s Dunn Meadow in April. I hope to see all of you at the sixth Annual Traditional Powwow—hopefully with beautiful weather outside—to experience performances from singers and dancers, and arts and crafts vendors representing several Native American tribal backgrounds from across the country.

Even as we celebrate the rich traditions of Native Americans, we should use this month to seek a better understanding of what’s happening right now in Native American communities, and not just commemorate history. Furthermore, we should also realize that there is great diversity among Native Americans, as demonstrated by the fact that as of January, 566 tribes have been federally recognized.

Nicholas Belle director of the first nations educational and cultural center

This is the perfect time to become more educated about Native American culture, especially after a holiday like Halloween, when there are yearly reports of people insensitively dressing up as Native Americans, and leading up to Thanksgiving, which can often reinforce negative stereotypes and present a one-sided history about Native Americans. Through resources on all of our campuses such as the programming of the FNECC and its director, Nicholas Belle, I encourage IU’s students, faculty, and staff to take part in the events of Native American Heritage Month and even after November ends, continue to have meaningful conversations about the contemporary aspects of Native American culture and society while enjoying all the activities each of IU’s campuses has to offer.

Please visit IU’s campuses online to learn more about events happening on a campus near you.