Native American Student Association celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day

GVL/Hannah Zajac-- Indigenous Peoples Day at Grand Valley State University on 9 Oct 2017.

Hannah Zajac

GVL/Hannah Zajac– Indigenous People’s Day at Grand Valley State University on 9 Oct 2017.

Sarah Hollis

Following Grand Valley State University student senate’s vote to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day, the Native American Student Association (NASA) organized a celebration event for Monday, Oct. 9.

Located in the Grand River Room of the Kirkhof Center, NASA’s celebration was held to honor and appreciate Native American culture. 

“What we want people to take away from all of our events is that we’re here, we’re here on campus, we have tons of community around us that support us, and that we have a lot of really cool traditions that are very interesting to learn about and to participate in just like we did tonight,” said Ashley Jacobs, vice president of NASA and member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

During this first-ever celebration, several hoop dancers performed while a group of drummers sang and provided beats for the dancers. 

“This is something that has great, deep meaning to everyone that’s out there,” said Angus Bush, one of the hoop dancers from the celebration. “Anyone that goes out there, that puts the time into their regalia, that goes out into that circle says that ‘I’m dancing for my community, I’m dancing for the Creator, I’m dancing for myself.’ It’s a great sense of honor and humility.”

There were even two dances where the audience was encouraged to participate and join the dancers. Students of all ages and nationalities were present and excited to learn about the culture of indigenous people. 

“I think it’s very important to observe Native American culture, especially since it’s such a unique culture that is one of the most well-preserved cultures over thousands of years, without any of it being written down,” said Emily Dusicska, a junior at GVSU, after the celebration concluded. “It’s all passed down orally. You can just tell how old and sacred it is, even by an event like this.”

Immediately following the performances, there was a student panel led by Jacobs. The panel answered questions ranging from what their experiences as native students have been to what Indigenous Peoples Day replacing Columbus Day means to them. At the end of the panel, the floor was opened for audience questions. 

Those interested in learning more about Native American culture can join NASA’s email list and attend NASA meetings, held every Wednesday at 7 p.m. Those looking to join the email list can email [email protected]. NASA is also on OrgSync.

“We’re inclusive, not exclusive: we want non-Natives to come in,” Jacobs said. 

Samantha Gann, president of NASA and member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, said one of NASA’s goals is to educate about Native American culture. 

“We want them to learn and educate them on what it means for us to be Native, but also to make them culturally aware so that they can spread that and just know that we’re still here,” she said. “We, as Native people, still exist. We still practice our traditional ways, we’re very community oriented and just want to be a support system for anybody who wishes to join.” 

Editor’s note: In the original version of this article, published online Wednesday, Oct. 11, and in print Thursday, Oct. 12, we incorrectly labeled Angus Bush as a member of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe). This information has been corrected.