SA’s committee for diversity and multiculturalism will host several events in celebration of Native American culture, including a pow-wow.
November is designated as National Native American Heritage Month, and for the first time, TU is taking part in this celebration.
The celebration has been primarily organized by SA’s committee for diversity and multiculturalism, headed by Evelin Lopez, but Megan Lowry, an intern at the Multicultural Resource Center in Hardesty Hall, has been integral in coordinating with local Native American tribes. The month, Lopez hopes, will also provide visibility to the newly chartered Indigenous Culture Society.
The committee felt it was important to host such a month with the history of TU and greater Oklahoma area — TU was founded as the Presbyterian School for Girls, to educate young Cherokee women. “One of the biggest things about diversity is I think sometimes we forget the Native American culture,” said Dana Thomas, who is a part of the diversity and multiculturalism committee.
There are four major events for the month: an event featuring Indian tacos, a storyteller, a powwow etiquette class and the powwow.
While the Indian taco event has already passed, it was attended by over 80 students. The storyteller will visit Monday, November 13. The Powwow etiquette event will be on November 30th. Having this event was important, Lopez said, because a powwow requires an “amount of respect” that many might not realize. The class will teach the friendship dance and how to participate, so students can respectfully join in on the celebration. Finally, the powwow, formally called “The Gathering at the Commons,” will be on December 2, from 2-10 p.m. Powwows “are usually longer, but Campo was like, ‘I want you guys to be done by 10 p.m.’” Lopez said. These events will all be accompanied by some sort of food.
At least 300 Native American people from the greater community will be attending the powwow, which will be located on the Old U, so students can drop by an experience it. Lopez described it as “it’s basically a community event held on campus and hosted by students.” “A bunch of nations will be coming together” for the event Thomas said. Lowry has been interested in hosting a powwow on campus, but because the Indigenous Cultures Society had not been chartered, organizing it was more difficult. Thomas said the goal of the powwow is “to get people to dance…so you’re participating with the Native Americans, rather than just seeing a performance.”
Nevin Subramanian, another member of the committee, said these month will help to “promote diversity and we’re all equal here.” He added that, in talking with other international students, they sometimes “see the US as this one thing,” without knowing about the indigenous cultures the US has.
“We think of a powwow as something that’s going to express diversity to Americans, but I think it’d be really interesting for international students to see the Native American culture, because that’s something unique about America,” Thomas concluded.
Previously, SA has hosted a discussion on Christopher Columbus day and have had fireside chats, but this year, they wanted to do “something bigger to promote Native American culture,” Lopez said. For the rest of the year, the committee will host events for Black History Month and Asian-American and Pacific Island Heritage Month. Subramanian said that while SA is mostly known for Homecoming and Springfest, he hoped events like these would show that they’re involved in more than just that.
Subramanian finished saying, “This message isn’t just for Native Americans. It’s a learning experience. Everyone can learn from it; everyone can enjoy it…it would be great that a powwow, something so sacred to the Native Americans, they’re including everyone here. And that’s what we want TU to be representative of, both the community and the students to be included, any race, any color, any gender, anyone.”