By: Alison Ziegler, firstname.lastname@example.org
Every year in November the United States celebrates American Indian Heritage Month. This celebration was officially declared in 1990, but MSUM has been hosting their own honorary events since the 1960s, according to Jered Pigeon, director of Diversity and Inclusion.
The American Indian Student Association (AISA) is taking a large part in putting on different events throughout the month. Glory Ames, a senior sustainability major and the president of AISA, was able to give insight into what AISA is all about and the impact of American Indian Heritage Month.
“The American Indian Student Association is the student organization on campus dedicated to creating a modern cultural identity for Native American, First Nations and Indigenous students on and off campus,” Ames said.
ASIA is sponsoring or co-sponsoring many of the events taking place on campus, including many of the movies that are being shown and the Opening Pipe Ceremony. Ames expressed that the opening ceremony is “the pride of the month” and always has a great turn out.
“It’s a great way to open up the month and also has a lot of cultural significance for our Lakota and Dakota students,” Ames stated.
MSUM has put on events in celebration of American Indian Heritage Month since before former president George H. W. Bush officially declared the month as celebratory.
Pigeon shared some of the significance behind the month.
“The United States government delegated this cultural month in an attempt to maintain the identity and teach others about the heritage and the culture of American Indians,” he said.
Every year a poster goes out announcing the events that will be taking place. This year some of the events are “Rock your Mocs,” Ojibwe Language Tables and sweat lodge ceremonies.
According to Pigeon, November is the month looked forward to most by the surrounding community.
Another resource that helps to provide awareness of American Indian heritage and culture is the American Indian Research and Resource Center (AIC). It was established in 2009 and can be found in CMU 115.
Pigeon stated that the purpose of AIC is to provide space for indigenous students to get together and support each other. It also provides resources to those with an interest in learning about Native American contributions to life and allows community and alumni to support students while they are here.
AISA holds their weekly meetings in this center. Ames shared the mission of AISA, which is to have a space and support group for each other while they’re away from home and their families.
“We want to create a modern image of Native Americans on campus, because a lot of people see us still as leather wearing and riding horses to our designated camps,” she said.
Ames feels that it is a good thing to have a month dedicated to Native American culture. She especially enjoys being able to help show international students the art and history of Native American people, as they may not know a lot about the different people who live in this area.
American Indian culture is rich, and AISA is working hard to help expose others to this culture. Celebrating American Indian Heritage month is a great way to experience the beauty of the Native American way of life.