The First Nations Educational and Cultural Center at IU is celebrating Native American Heritage Month with several past and up-coming events this month.
In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 as “National American Indian Heritage Month”, according to the National Native American Heritage Month website. Similar proclamations with varying names, such as National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, have been issued every year since 1994.
The First Nations Educational and Cultural Center kicked off the month with a presentation from Dani Tippmann, a Miami Nation artist, at the Eskenazi Museum of Art on Nov. 2, FNECC director Sherene Ing said.
During her presentation Tippmann talked about plants native to Indiana and their different uses, Ing said. There was also a sensory room at the event where participants could hear the Maimi language being spoken. Yoga mats and sensory candles were also in the room, while in another room, participants could weave different plants together. The event, Ing said, was a kind of connecting with the landscape through Miami language and culture.
Native students, faculty and staff at IU were also honored at an IU women’s basketball game on Nov. 9 Ing said.
“Between the first and second half, we were brought out to the center courts, and we were able to kind of wave and, you know, they did the land acknowledgement during the game and highlighted us so yeah, it was fun,” Ing said.
The center is hosting a dinner and conversation with Derik Goatson, a Native American lawyer who has experience practicing Native American law Thursday. The event is at the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Nov. 16, according to the event posting.
“He'll be kind of talking about his career as he's worked with different tribes throughout the country in Native American law,” Ing said.
Having a Native American Heritage Month is important, Ing said, because it’s something many people think is a part of our past.
A lot of students and community members, Ing said, don’t know the story behind the phrase “land of the Indians” on Indiana Native American license plates and that many different tribes used to reside in the state. The Potawatomi, the Miami, the Shawnee and the Delaware, she said, are indigenous to Bloomington.
Ing said people think these tribes are not here anymore, but they are. With forced removal, she said, the tribes have moved to Michigan or have a presence in Oklahoma, and their story is still alive.
“There are still Native Americans that live in our country,” Ing said. “And so, it's important to kind of highlight their journey here, and that they're still alive and well, and they’re doing amazing things in our communities.”
Learning about the things they’re doing, Ing said, is important to highlight. Native Americans, she said, are not people of the past and are a part of this community.
The center, according to their website, hosts many cultural events and programs throughout the academic year, including speaker series, film series, artist workshops and an annual powwow, through these events, the center strives to build an inclusive and supportive community for Native and Indigenous students. These initiatives also try to educate the larger IU community about the diversity of Native American cultural life and issues within contemporary Native communities.
The center, Ing said, likes to provide a space for students to feel at home and connect with other Native students on campus. She also said, the center tries to create a safe space to allow people to learn more about themselves and their identity.
“The center allows you to have that space to kind of ask questions, and also to explore the different parts of your yourself,” Ing said.
Ing said she feels like the center is also trying to create a space at IU where students get the support they need.
“We also have Native faculty and staff that are doing amazing things as well,” Ing said. “And if some of our students are interested in exploring those opportunities as well, or the different research projects they're working on, then they can kind of connect up with that as well.”
Ing said it’s nice IU prioritizes having the cultural centers on campus, so that, through all the noise and distractions, students can find a space where they belong.
“Being a part of a small, marginalized community, it's easy to get lost, in the crowd,” Ing said. “And if you don't have a space where you can express that part of yourself, of your identity, it can be overwhelming.”
The most important thing for people to know, Ing said, is that Native Americans have a place in society today. She said that it’s an exciting time with Native Americans being portrayed on TV and social media highlighting Native culture.
Ing said she feels like it’s this time, where Native Americans want people to learn more about their culture and ask questions.
“You can laugh right along with us or cry right along with us and I feel like, right now, that space is there, that you can explore more, and you can ask more questions,” Ing said.
Ing said she wants people to know that they can come over to the center and ask those questions without judgement because there’s so many things they want to learn. She said she feels like sometimes, people who come to the center didn’t know they were allowed to come in because they aren’t Native American.
But people don’t have to be Native American to come into the center, Ing said. She said there are a lot of students, who aren’t Native, that like to utilize the culture center’s space.
“And we love it, we enjoy that you feel welcome here and that you want to learn as we are learning as well,” Ing said.