The Native American Sisterhood Alliance (NASA) is encouraging all members of the Mills College community to celebrate the history of indigenous peoples this month.
November marks Native American Heritage Month, and in the past, NASA-sponsored events have not been well attended. This year the club is trying to change that.
“This year we want to make it more welcoming to the whole Mills community,” said sophomore and NASA member, Ciera Cummings.
To achieve a larger turnout of native students, NASA stresses that it is intertribal and welcomes all indigenous people. To reach out to the larger community, it has cosponsored events with other organizations on campus, including the film screening of “The Business of Fancydancing” with Queer Melanin, a club that provides solidarity for LGBT students of color.
Events sponsored by NASA this month included posters on Toyon Meadow depicting biographies of famous indigenous people, a display in Olin Library, a film screening and a fry bread fundraiser for Intertribal Friendship House on Nov. 20, an Oakland organization that brings urban Native Americans together. A heritage dinner was held Nov. 19 in the Student Union.
The Annual Congress of the American Indian Association first approved “American Indian Day,” the current month’s predecessor, in 1915. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution making November “National American Indian Heritage Month,” referred to as “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.”
The observance of Native American Heritage Month at Mills emerged from collaboration between the Ethnic Studies Department and the Native American Sisterhood Alliance.
“The department has worked extremely hard over the past decade to coordinate an annual program of events throughout the year that honor all of the heritage months,” said Ethnic Studies Professor Julia Sudbury, who is head of her department.
“The Ethnic Studies Department is supportive, and provides us with the resources we need,” said junior and NASA member Shunkila Black Calf.
NASA has worked to achieve equality on campus since its renewal around 2005.
“We had a strong activist focus to change the mentality at Mills toward Native Americans,” said interim NASA advisor and Mills graduate student Esther Lucero, who was a member of the club as an undergraduate.
But to educate and celebrate with a larger group, NASA is encouraging all students, staff, faculty and the local community to come to activities.
“In bringing powerful and moving films, scholars and activists, dancers, visual artists and other performers to Mills, the history months provide a critically important service to the Mills community, and make visible the presence and dedication of students, staff and faculty of color,” said Sudbury.