Native American Heritage Month aimed to educate, entertain students

Students participate in the Navajo Shoe Games as part of Native American heritage month in University Center 108 on Friday, Nov. 9.

Native American Heritage Month is recognized nationally throughout the month of November. At Central Michigan University, students celebrate and educate during the month with a variety of events hosted by the Office of Native American Programs. 

Multiple students helped plan and execute events throughout the month. Two of them, Escanaba senior Hannah Bartol and Mishawaka senior Alexis Syrette, in charge of planning  activities and running a brand new CMU C-REZ radio show that was created for the month. 

“Every Wednesday, we go into the student radio station over in Moore Hall. We introduce ourselves and then go into some contemporary issues that affect the Native American community,” Bartol said. 

The radio show doesn't only feature Bartol and Syrette; the two hosts also brought in guest speakers to get their viewpoints on the issues that affect the Native American community. 

“A lot of the guest speakers are past students or people within the community. They’re all more than willing to come for two hours or (on) their lunch hour if they can,” Bartol said. 

According to both Bartol and Syrette, the feedback from the radio show has been positive. 

“We can’t really see how many people are listening, but we’ve gotten really good feedback," Syrette said. "We try to do a good job of posting it on social media so people can see and listen online. We’ve gotten good feedback from people from what we’ve seen,” Syrette said. 

Other than the radio show, another feature of Native American Heritage Month is keynote speaker, Michigan State University director Dr. Dylan Miner, who ended the month with a lecture continuing discussion of issues the Native American community faces. 

“In years past we’ve had indigenous music artists, we’ve had authors, we’ve had poets, we’ve had sports players, we’ve had just a multitude of keynote speakers. This year we have Dr. Dylan Miner. He’s a director at Michigan State University and the indigenous community is very, I would say, close knit. He was more than willing to come to CMU and talk about his journey through academia,” Bartol said. 

Events didn't just happen within a couple hours, however. Every day in November, CMU students were invited to "Rock Your Mocs." This event called for students to wear moccasins every day of the month. The event is nationally recognized and Syrette believes it is a way for students to reach out and ask questions about what moccasins represent. 

“(Rock your Mocs) is a nationwide thing," Syrette said. "It’s a movement not only for Native American Heritage Month, but for November. We want people to reach out to us and ask us about our culture and what that means to us to be wearing our moccasins.” 

For Grand Haven freshman Ayebah Wilson, her first year organizing these events was constructive. 

“It’s nice to see our cultures being shared and shown to those who only know of the stereotypes and false knowledge of native people," Wilson said. "I loved being able to share more of my culture, being Navajo. I was able to show and share information and a new perspective that is separate from the tribes in Michigan."

Though Wilson's experience was positive, Bartol thought more individuals needed to come to Native American Heritage Month events to become more educated about a prominent community of students at CMU. 

“A lot of the Native American community comes to our events just to support our events, (but) I’m not here to educate them. I’m here to educate the community and I think a lot of people don't know what they don’t know,” Bartol said. “I think having them step out of their comfort zone (to) come to our events would be a lot of fun.”

Even though the month has ended, Syrette wants individuals to know that the Office of Native American Programs is always willing to answer questions. 

“(To) the overall community of CMU, get involved. No question is a dumb question. Just reach out to us in the NAP office and we’re more than happy to help,” Syrette said.