Audrey Tchaa –
Here at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, November was celebrated for Native American Heritage Month. Although the month has passed and everyone is excited for Christmas, the Native American Student Organization (NASO) shares why they believe Native American Heritage Month is important to them and to UW-Stout.
NASO’s executive board believes that the month of November is a great opportunity to educate and bring awareness about their culture and tribes. Though they didn’t have any events to celebrate, their meetings were fully engaged on indigenous culture. Students on the executive board are Synala Smith (President), Ariana Bourdon (Treasurer), Kenny Waukau (Secretary). Two non-executive board members that played a contributing part to the story are Chetan McKay (former President), and Nick TwoBears (dedicated NASO member).
“It matters to me because the indigenous people of the U.S. are often ignored when it comes to history and representation. This is a time that our history can be recognized for once. It is a part of the history of this country. It has the same importance as the Holocaust has in Germany. Genocide was committed here and the history books erase that by not sharing our history. We are still here and we have a lot of gifts to offer the world,” says Smith.
The following are the voices from members of NASO and why they believe this month is so important:
“It matters because it’s important to bring awareness to real history that is not whitewashed. It’s important to learn about others who are different from you and see how you can support and embrace others,” -Chia Lor
“It is a culture that often goes unnoticed even though it is a large part of our history,” -Jasmine Baker
“It’s a reminder to people that may not know about first-nations people that we’ve survived to the present and that we’re still here,” -Ian “Chetan” McKay
“I want to be more informed about other cultures beside my own and be involved in getting to know Native American heritage better,” -Hleeda Lor
“Having this representation is essential and allows us to celebrate who we are as a people. If we were properly seen throughout campus there would be more discussions and hopefully acceptance. Showing that Stout is on native land and having this realization to see the atrocities committed to native people is important to healing and to decolonize Stout,” -Nick TwoBears
“It means that Native Americans can get recognition and that it gives Native Americans a reason to keep embracing their ethnicity and traditions, not just throughout the month, but every day,” -Kirsten Van Dyke
“Because it is part of who I am,” -Rhonda Redday
“It matters to me to know the other side of history that was never told in my schools growing up. They will learn how that there’s always two sides to a story and the story they may have heard in the past may not all be true. Also, [it’s] important to realize that indigenous people are still here today, many (including myself) at times often forget to mention over indigenous people when it comes to inclusivity in civil rights. They matter too. We have to look into our past to understand the truth and better ourselves forward,” -Vaughn Hess Jr.
Native American Heritage Month isn’t just celebrating indigenous culture, it’s celebrating Native American UW-Stout students here on campus. The NASO executive board feels that they aren’t as represented here on campus and they want to inform the UW-Stout community that they are here and here to stay.
Some final words from former NASO president Chetan McKay: “I feel like the presence of this month being given this name is a prime opportunity to open up conversation about First Nations Peoples, regardless of the setting. Just the fact that people see ‘Native American’ and ‘month’ reminds them that we are here. I’m Dakota, I grew up speaking Dakota and rarely do I see anything positive representing my people or making mention of my people and this month meant to bring awareness and talk about my people and our traumas and our history. That’s very significant to me because I feel like I’m a part of the Stout community and the Stout community is learning more about my people. I represent my people and it’s just wild to me to still hear sometimes ‘Oh, you’re Dakota? What’s Dakota?’ Can you imagine living in Italy and not knowing about Italians, like that’s a joke! But here that’s the reality, that’s how it is, so it’s important to become more educated in indigenous history so they can make members of their community feel more welcomed.”