GVSU to honor Native American heritage

GVL / Audra Gamble
17th annual GVSU Three Fires Pow Wow Celebrating All Walks of Life

GVL / Audra Gamble 17th annual GVSU Three Fires Pow Wow “Celebrating All Walks of Life”

Ashlyn Korienek

In observation of Native American Heritage Month, the Grand Valley State University Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Native American Student Association (NASA) will host a series of events, which began Sept. 26.

Molly Matson, NASA president, said this year, the organization is straying away from the term “Native American Heritage Month,” and instead focusing on a year-round celebration. She said the association will host several events throughout the year.

“This year especially we are trying to get away from ‘Native American Heritage Month’ because we are not Native American for only one month,” Matson said. “I am Native American all year round, which is why the association is trying to do events every month now instead of exclusive to one month.”

Matson said the NASA hopes to spread awareness about Native American culture and its place within the GVSU community. She said December is the only month excluded, due to busy schedules of students and faculty.

“Basically our events and heritage, not the month itself, is very special to us,” Matson said. “We really want students to realize that there is a Native American population on campus still.

“Students should learn more about the culture because there is a lack of understanding of who we are – some have gone as far to say we are extinct – which is why we are hosting these events.”

The celebration began with the annual Native American Student Association day of service, held in Grand Rapids on Sept. 26. Matson said a speaker was present, then volunteers cleaned up what was one of the last surviving Hopewellian burial mound groups, called the Norton Mounds.

The next event, a panel discussion, will occur at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 in the DeVos Center’s Loosemore Auditorium. The panel discussion will examine the impact of colonization on Native American culture as well as the history of Columbus Day. In addition, they will discuss the current movement to change the holiday’s name to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which was initiated in 2014 in Seattle, Washington.

“This event is important because we are rethinking Columbus Day,” Matson said. “In Seattle, the name was changed to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This will be a discussion on the topic diving into the truth on the holiday and Columbus, but it’s also a way for people to understand and talk more about Native American history.”

On Nov. 17, Native American scholar, writer and activist Adrienne Keene will discuss how indigenous people are represented in society’s popular culture. In 2014, Anton Treuer, from the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University, discussed his personal and professional journey with students.

Matson said the last event for the semester is the Native American urban history project exhibit, called “Gi-gikino’maage-min: Defend Our History, Unlock Your Spirit.” The Kutsche Office of Local History, special collections and archives, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Native American advisory board are hosting the event.

This exhibit is on display from Nov. 3 to Nov. 19 at the Mary Idema Pew Library, which is the first archival collection focusing on the urban Native American experience in West Michigan.

To find out more about the Native American heritage events, visit www.gvsu.edu/oma.