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NSU students celebrate American Indian Heritage Month
Alpha Pi Omega members Haley Noe, left, and Kryste Benge lead Native American students onto the Northeastern State University campus Nov. 1 during a “Moc Walk” to kick off National American Indian Heritage Month.
WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
By WILL CHAVEZ
Tues, Nov 09, 2010
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Native American students attending Northeastern State University met Nov. 1 at the Cherokee Courthouse square for a “moc walk” to commemorate National American Indian Heritage Month.
In moccasins and barefooted, the students walked four blocks from the square to the NSU Centennial Plaza where they spoke about the month’s significance and shared the times and dates of events planned for November.
Asa Lewis, who is Kiowa/Cherokee and the interim student coordinator for the NSU Center for Tribal Studies, took part in the walk. She also advises four of the six Native American organizations on campus – Alpha Pi Omega, a Native American sorority; the Native American Student Association; Indian University Scholar Society; and the NSU American Indian Science and Engineering Society.
She said the Native groups formed a committee to plan events for November, with each organization agreeing to coordinate at least one activity. Phi Sigma Nu, a Native American fraternity, and American Indian Business Leaders members also participated in the walk that was organized by Alpha Pi Omega.
Northeastern State University students Mallory Buckley, Danielle Culp and Miss Native American Student Association 2010-11 Crystal Perry take part in a “Moc Walk” on Nov. 1 in downtown Tahlequah, Okla., to commemorate National American Indian Heritage Month.
WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
“We wanted to start the month off honoring all tribes, where we’ve come from, how far we’ve come. We wanted everyone to wear their moccasins throughout the day, and when we came together for the ‘moc walk’ we wanted them to wear their traditional wear,” Lewis said. “We start here (courthouse) because it’s something from our past and we end up at Centennial Plaza, which is symbolic of how far we’ve come.”
A fry bread-eating contest sponsored by NASA and a stickball game also were held the first week of November.
On Nov. 18, NASA students are slated to host a storyteller event with four local storytellers from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the meeting room of the Place Where They Play on the Sequoyah Schools campus. The following day Native IUSS students are set to host area grade school students for arts and crafts presentations at NSU. The importance of a college education also will be discussed.
At Centennial Park, student Kryste Benge, Muscogee Creek/Choctaw, read a statement about what National American Indian Heritage Month is, how it started and what the month means to her and her Alpha Pi Omega sisters. She said at one time this country’s Indian heritage was celebrated for only one day and then a week. The many contributions by Native Americans could not be honored in one day or one week, she said, so in 1990 President George H.W. Bush established November as National American Indian Heritage Month.
She also mentioned the successes tribes are having preserving their cultures and languages, including the Cherokee Nation with its success in preserving its language through a Cherokee language degree program at NSU and its immersion school.
“It’s not just the Cherokees. There are other tribes across the nation that have had similar successes,” said Benge, who graduated from Sequoyah and will graduate from NSU in May with a degree in political science.
She said while growing up in Tahlequah her Native heritage did not hinder her from achieving her goals, but helped her.
“Many Native Americans who do enter college have life challenges that come their way, but because of how we are raised with the core values of our families, we persevere as Native people and also as students,” she said.
She said the values she learned and the “chain of excellence” carried by her and fellow Native students need to be passed down to the following generations.