North Texas Daily

Native American Student Association kicks off heritage month with traditional performances

Native American Student Association kicks off heritage month with traditional performances

Native American Student Association kicks off heritage month with traditional performances
November 09
16:14 2018

Colorful attire, dancing and the sound of large drums took over the library mall on Nov.  7 from 12-2 p.m.

It was the Native American Heritage Month Exhibition hosted by UNT’s Native American Student Association and the Multicultural Center.

This was the first event the Native American Student Association held this November to kick off Native American Heritage Month. Native American Student Association vice president Ruth Thunderhawk helped to organize the event.

“One of our main goals of [this event] is to promote cultural awareness, start a conversation with our communities and maybe answer any questions that people may have about indigenous peoples and their culture,” Thunderhawk said.

Much of the event was presented by performer Harold Rogers, who was dressed in regalia and spoke powerfully into the microphone. He participated in a multitude of powwow dances. Many of the songs and dances that were performed are passed down from generation to generation.

“When we do these songs, they all have different meanings,” Rogers said. “These songs, these dances — these were our Spotify.”

Art education junior Brittany Sallier participating in the round dancing and watching the event take place. Emily Olkkola

The Native American Heritage Month Exhibition was also held to raise awareness that the Native American Student Association exists and welcomes new members.

Native American Student Association president Emilia Gaston also helped organize the event. There were a variety of traditional dances presented including powwow and the regalia associated with it.

“[We want] to show a small facet of our culture which is singing and dancing,” Gaston said. “These songs and dances are passed down from generation and generation.”

The dances and the performances drew a large crowd. It featured dancing by performers Harold Rogers, Margie Begay, Jaiden Soto, Dennis Begay and more. Drumming and singing was performed by a drum group called Comanche Thunder. Psychology freshman Lane Barrett also sang for the crowd.

“My favorite part is probably the [number] of students that are out there watching,” Thunderhawk said. “You can see that they’re actively engaged, and it makes my heart warm.”

Gaston said the event was held at the Library Mall to hopefully catch people passing by. It seemed to work, as that is how art education junior Brittany Sallier found the event.

Dennis Begay [front], Jaiden Soto [left] and Margie Begay leading a session of round dancing. Many volunteers from the crowd participated. Emily Olkkola

“I was leaving class, and because I’m Native American and African American it was something I could relate to,” Sallier said. “But my family itself doesn’t really celebrate the traditions as much as we used to, so just seeing it actually presented in front of me was something I had to stop for.”

Sallier was one of many volunteers who participated in the round dancing, where a large group of people gather in a circle and stepped to the beat.

“I was really surprised that so many students wanted to be involved [in the round dancing], so that was awesome,” Gaston said. “It’s really easy to get [young kids] involved, but sometimes with adults, we get embarrassed or shy. It’s awesome to see that the students actually wanted to participate.”

The Native American Heritage Month Exhibition reminded Sallier of herself and her culture.

“I love [this event] — just seeing the dances and seeing the traditions and the bright colors,” Sallier said. “Everything about it makes me want to know more about myself and more about my family. [It makes me want to] start the traditions again.”

Doctorate student of sociology and president of the Native American Student Association Emilia Gaston hugging Dennis Begay. Emily Olkkola

UNT resides on Comanche, Wichita and Caddo indigenous land. Other tribes have also migrated through UNT land, Gaston said.

“For most people, they think that native people just own casinos and that’s it,” Rogers said. “I know that there’s a couple of them right up the road — WinStar, Choctaw Casino — which is all well and good, but there’s much more to native people than just the casinos and such. That’s why we want to come out here and share these songs and these dances.”

The Native American Student Association has about 10 members now, growing from last semester which had six members including Thunderhawk and Gaston.

Next semester, the organization plans on programming with the anthropology department and other departments for the international year of indigenous languages.

Two other events next semester are also planned to be hosted by the Native American Student Association with no set calendar date yet.

Featured Image: Harold Rogers in traditional powwow regalia performing a dance. Emily Olkkola

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Emily Olkkola

Emily Olkkola

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