Throughout November, Indiana University Bloomington will highlight the contemporary narratives of Native American communities and the cultural traditions that ground them as the campus celebrates Native American Heritage Month.
First established in 1990, Native American Heritage Month designates November as a nationwide celebration of Native American communities throughout the United States, as well as a time to highlight the issues still affecting indigenous peoples. Through a series of speakers, film screenings and other events, IU will contribute to this recognition by drawing attention to the ongoing stories of native communities.
"Far too often, our national discussion of Native American heritage has been limited to the past tense," said James C. Wimbush, vice president of diversity, equity and multicultural affairs, dean of the University Graduate School and Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership. "Native American Heritage Month is an important reminder that we must broaden this conversation to include indigenous communities in the past, present and future, celebrating their cultures and addressing the issues they face today."
On the IU Bloomington campus, many of the month's events will take place through the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center. Supported by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, First Nations has become a central space of community and cultural engagement for indigenous and nonindigenous students alike. By offering support to indigenous members of the community and providing events that engage attendees with the contemporary narratives of Native Americans, the center works year-round to correct the harmful stereotypes and mistaken understandings often applied to Native Americans.
"The best way to learn about a native experience or native identity, to learn about what we do, is to be part of what we do," said Nicky Belle, director of the center.
Native American Heritage Month events hosted on the Bloomington campus include:
- Nov. 1: Gary Morseau, chair of the Food Sovereignty Committee of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, will provide samples of Potawatomi food, as well as information about traditional cooking and the importance of food sovereignty, during First Thursdays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the IU Fine Arts Plaza.
- Nov. 3: As part of the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center's Weekend Warrior workshop series, Morseau will present a daylong workshop on traditional Potawatomi cooking. Attendance is limited to 12 people, and interested students should contact the center at email@example.com RSVP by Oct. 31.
- Nov. 12: First Nations will host a screening of "Hollow Water,"a documentary profiling a native community dealing with an epidemic of sexual abuse, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Indiana Memorial Union Dogwood Room. A panel discussion will follow the screening.
- Nov. 14: As part of its 12th Annual Native Film Series, First Nations will host a screening of "Indian Horse,"a documentary examining the residential school experience and discussing how being forced to attend these institutions has negatively affected Native American children, families and communities, contributing to generational trauma in the process. The screening will take place at 6 p.m. in Whittenberger Auditorium.
- Nov. 28: The First Nations Educational and Cultural Center will host Whirlwind Bull, a member of the Arikara tribe, for a discussion on the Arikara language and the cultural revitalization taking place at the Sahnish Survival Camp. The talk will take place at First Nations at 12:30 p.m., and lunch will be provided.
A land acknowledgment statement will be read at the beginning of each First Nations Educational and Cultural Center heritage month event. The statement acknowledges that Indiana University was built upon indigenous land following the forced removal of the Miami, Delaware and Potawatomi people, and recognizes these communities' roles as past, present and future caretakers of the land upon which the university was built.
IU's celebration of Native American Heritage Month falls within a larger context of acknowledging the ongoing narratives of indigenous communities. In October, for example, IU Bloomington students successfully lobbied the Bloomington mayor's office to release an honorary proclamation recognizing Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples' Day. Heather Williams, programming assistant at the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, said that such efforts are critical steps of acknowledging indigenous communities and representing members of these communities in an accurate and dignified light.
"Many times our stories are skipped over or whitewashed. The perspective of the native voice isn't always told," Williams said. "And this is a time when it's most easy for us to be heard."
Details of the Native American Heritage Month events can be found on the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center's website.