UW-Eau Claire celebrates Native American Heritage Month in November

| Denise Olson

The Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Inter-Tribal Student Council and the American Indian studies program are partnering to sponsor and curate UW-Eau Claire’s celebration of Native American Heritage Month in November.

Gary Garvin, a student intern in the Office of Multicultural Affairs who has played a key role in developing this year’s events, says the month will help people of the campus and greater Eau Claire communities learn about, better understand and appreciate Native American cultures and histories. 

"It's a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures and histories, to acknowledge the contributions of native people, and it serves as an opportune time to educate the public about tribes and the different challenges we face, historically and today," Garvin says.

Heather Ann Moody speaking at Indigenous Peoples Day

Heather Ann Moody, assistant professor of American Indian studies, spoke at UW-Eau Claire's 2019 Indigenous Peoples Day event, which reintroduced the university seal for use with a formal land recognition statement acknowledging native lands.

Throughout the month, events, activities, speakers and interactions will emphasize the vibrancy and energy of contemporary native lives, with a special focus on the arts and artists.

"This year the Inter-Tribal Student Council really wanted to showcase the artistic side elements of native culture, the living artists and artwork of today rather than the more common attention to native art as artifact," says Dr. Heather Ann Moody, an assistant professor of American Indian studies and advisor to the organization for native students at UW-Eau Claire. "From a beading workshop, to poetry, pottery, music, dance and film, the events of the month are a celebration of native arts."

As the calendar of events kept building in richness and diversity of topics, Moody says she and other organizers recognized that momentum is building on campus toward a growing spirit of unity and success among groups of and for native students.

12 Tribal Nations flags of Wisconsin to hang permanently in Davies Student Center

UW-Eau Claire's 2019 Indigenous Peoples Day celebration included the installation of the 12 tribal nations' flags, which will hang permanently in Davies Center.

"The three programs are building stronger relationships, the students are building up their org again — it's really nice," Moody says. "Having this year's heritage month coincide with the recent Indigenous Peoples Day event, the formal campus land recognition, and the installation of the exhibit of the 12 tribal nations' flags in Davies Center is all helping students to feel more represented. They feel that they're being seen and heard."

See the following highlighted major events of the November celebration. For a complete list of event details, see the downloadable Native American Heritage Month poster 2019.

Kicking it all off: Opening ceremony, Nov. 4

The monthlong celebration will begin with an opening ceremony at 5 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Ojibwe Ballroom of Davies Center. This event will include:

  • Academic Excellence Awards ceremony for native students.
  • A buffet of soups based on indigenous cooking traditions.
  • Drumming from the Little Thunder drum group of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
  • A keynote address from Blugold alumnus Dr. JP Leary, associate professor of First Nations studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“Leary is an expert in Wisconsin Act 31, a law that mandates certain levels of Native American history and culture education in K-12 schools," says Garvin, whose Black River Falls high school worked with Leary to develop a First Nations curriculum, a connection that inspired him to invite Leary to speak at UW-Eau Claire.

The flagship event: Honoring Veterans Powwow, Nov. 9

Honoring Education Powwow

A youth dances during the 2016 powwow in UW-Eau Claire's Zorn Arena.

The “Honoring Veterans Powwow” doors will open at 10 a.m., the Grand Entries will be at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., and the feast will begin at 5 p.m.

While the history, purpose and cultural significance of the powwow tradition varies from one native nation to another in the U.S., there also are many consistencies, organizers say.

"In all tribes, a powwow is a traditional celebration of native heritage and culture," says Skye Kujawski, associate student services coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. "There is dancing, drumming, singing and lots of food."

Kujawski, a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation of New York who joined the OMA staff in July, will take part in her first UW-Eau Claire powwow, a tradition now celebrating its 37th year.

"After one year on upper campus, which happened for a variety of reasons, we have brought the powwow back to Zorn Arena and are expecting high turnout once again," Kujawski says. "Our main objectives have remained the same for the powwow, which are to raise awareness about native culture, to share traditions with the members of our native communities along with non-natives, and most importantly, to bring the comforts of home to our native students."

Garvin echoes that intention, noting how important the powwow is for native students who are away from home and missing their communities and culture.

"Being at college can be isolating for native students whose lives at home are so surrounded by family and tribal people," Garvin says. "This is a day to look forward to feeling less isolated, less alone. It's always great to bring people together from our communities."

Kujawski and Garvin have worked to make the 2019 powwow event more inter-tribal than in past years. For example, they invited drum groups from multiple nations. They expect drum groups from Potawatomi, Ojibwe and Ho-Chunk nations, as well as individuals who also may bring their own drums.

Along with the drums and dancers, people attending the powwow will find a variety of vendors selling crafts, clothing and food. The Inter-Tribal Student Council will sell fry bread and fry bread tacos among other things.

A star quilt sewn by the mother of a Blugold Inter-Tribal Student Council member will be given away in a raffle.

"The theme of her quilt was to bring attention to the issue of murdered and missing indigenous women in the U.S. and Canada, where two out of three indigenous women will be assaulted in their lifetime," Moody says. "We need to bring more focus to the native issues of today, this issue as well as the environmental crisis and native sovereignty rights. Native struggles are contemporary, not just historical." 

Garvin encourages people from the campus and Eau Claire communities to attend.

"I would say that the most important thing is just to practice respectful participation, to ask questions if you're interested," Garvin says of non-native people attending the powwow. "Giving compliments is great if you see or hear something that you like, someone's beading or regalia (it's not called a costume), so feel free to tell them you like that. And it's okay to take pictures, or to ask for a picture with a dancer or drummer, but just ask first."

The rest of the lineup

  • Beading workshop, Nov. 6, 4 p.m. in Centennial Hall Room 1108. Attendees can make earrings or a lanyard to take with them. They also can stay to create items that will be used in future fundraising events.
  • Pottery exhibit opening, Nov. 7, 4 p.m. in the Foster Art Gallery of Haas Fine Arts Center.
  • Live pottery session, Nov. 8, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. in the Foster Art Gallery of Haas Fine Arts Center. Visitors can see pottery being created as they watch visiting artists Preston and Debra Duwyenie work throughout the day.
  • Honoring Veterans Powwow, Nov. 9 in Zorn Arena. Doors will open at 10 a.m., the Grand Entries will be at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., and the feast will begin at 5 p.m. Cost is $2 for students with ID, $4 for adults, and free to children under 5 and seniors 55 and over.
  • Poetry reading, Nov. 11, 5:30 p.m. in the Foster Art Gallery of the Haas Fine Arts Center. The event will feature the poetry of Jennifer Foerster, a member of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma.
  • Rock Your Mocs Week, Nov. 11-15. All members of the campus community, regardless of ethnicity, are invited to wear moccasins throughout the week. They can be authentic native beading or just moccasin-style flats from a local store.
  • Blugold Dialogue, Nov. 13, 4 p.m. in Centennial Hall Room 2304. Tony Boerger from the Black River Falls School District will discuss generational trauma from the boarding school era and the concept that trauma is internalized at a cellular level and passed down through generations in various manifestations, including PTSD.
  • The Truth About Thanksgiving, Nov. 14, 4 p.m. in Centennial Hall Room 1924. Dr. Andrew Sturtevant, an assistant professor of history and American Indian studies at UW-Eau Claire, will debunk the myths surrounding this iconic American holiday.
  • Film screening: "Rumble," Nov. 20, 5 p.m. in the Woodland Theater in Davies Center. The documentary film focuses on a native rock band.
  • Indigenous Buffet, Nov. 21, 11:30 a.m. in The Dulany Inn in Davies Center.
  • Guest speaker David O'Connor, Nov. 21, 5 p.m. in Woodland Theater in Davies Center. An expert on Act 31, O'Connor talks about Native American history and culture education in K-12 schools as a "know your neighbor" concept that benefits all cultures. The presentation is geared toward native and non-native educators.
  • Closing Ceremony, Dec. 2, 5 p.m. in Centennial Hall Room 1108.

For more information about Native American Heritage Month, contact Dr. Heather Ann Moody at moodyha@uwec.edu or 715-836-4690, or Skye Kujawski at kujawssa@uwec.edu or 715-836-5187. 

Top photo caption: Native American drummers performed during UW-Eau Claire's Indigenous Peoples Day event in October.