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September 21, 2023

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Campus events acknowledge Native American Heritage Month


November marks Native American and Indigenous Heritage Month, established in 1916 to acknowledge the history, contributions and achievements of Native and Indigenous people.

Since President George H. W. Bush signed a joint resolution in 1990, each president acknowledges the month of November and in this year’s proclamation, President Joe Biden not only acknowledged November, but acknowledged the hardships Native and Indigenous people have been facing.

“America has not always delivered on its promise of equal dignity and respect for Native Americans. For centuries, broken treaties, dispossession of ancestral lands, and policies of assimilation and termination sought to decimate Native populations and their ways of life,” Biden said during his acknowledgment.

The proclamation discusses changes in tribal relations and federal policy-making, it sheds light on the forced cultural-assimilation of Native and Indigenous children in boarding schools and other pressing issues within these communities. Despite this positive proclamation, the current political climate surrounding these issues has been very negative, such as the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which is currently before the Supreme Court.

Retired BGSU professor of Literary and Textual Studies Programs in the English Department Khani Begum reflected on the current political atmosphere surrounding Native and Indigenous communities, along with what to focus on, in order to better support Native and Indigenous people both locally and nationwide.

“The issue of sovereignty is of great importance to almost all the Native Americans I have met or had a chance to talk with and get to know… The other important issue which ties in with the question of sovereignty is that of expressing through their art, music and writing the fact that they are still here,” Begum said. “This is extremely important for Indigenous people and cultures because mainstream media and culture tends to celebrate indigenous people and their culture as historical artifacts; as if they belong to history and are in a past that no longer exists except as symbols of their culture.”

One way to support Native and Indigenous individuals is through acknowledgement. Acknowledging the culture, history and stolen lands prevents erasure and highlights the importance that these individuals have had throughout history and continue to have today. 

BGSU has provided a proper Land Acknowledgement statement in an effort to decolonize the institution, as well as promoting Native artists through projects like the In the Round speaker series, that has taken place for the last two semesters.

Begum said attending such events can be vital for the understanding and acknowledgement of Native and Indigenous culture. BGSU has been working to expand their inclusivity, effectively providing more awareness and opportunity for the community to educate themselves.

“Take a class if one is available on Indigenous culture, literature and film as they are offered 

every now and then through different departments. There are Pow Wows and other events organized by Native American groups at different times during the year in Toledo and in Michigan,” Begum said. “Many Native Americans who live in Toledo and Southern Michigan are also willing to come to campus to teach Native arts such as basket weaving, drumming and more.”

Throughout the month, there are many events for students, staff and faculty to engage with in observance of Native American and Indigenous Heritage Month. The Office of Multicultural Affairs at BGSU has released an itinerary, with four events remaining this month. 

  • Nov. 15-17: Movie premiere of “Beans” by Tracey Deer, BTSU 427, 5 p.m.

  • Nov. 16: Dream Catcher Demonstration with Mary High Elk, BTSU 316, 2 p.m.

  • Nov. 29: The Token White Guy: Becoming an ally to the Anishinabek, BTSU 207, 7 p.m.

  • Nov. 30: Honoring Indigenous People’s Food, Social House at the Oaks, Lunch hours.

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