The Native American Student Organization, the Center for Multicultural Affairs and the Resident Hall Association kicked off Native American Heritage Month at Eastern Michigan University with a traditional celebration in the Student Center ballroom Tuesday evening.
The celebration featured a Native American drum group, singing, traditional food and a keynote speaker. The event was organized by senior public administration major Ebony Walls.
Faye Givens, an activist, filmmaker and Mississippi Choctaw Native American spoke at the event about contemporary issues that Native Americans face. The most serious issues she discussed were marginalization, healthcare, education and the environment.
“We want the right to determine for ourselves what is of value to us,” Givens said. “We want self-determination. What we are and what we want to be as a group, as a culture ourselves.”
One of the major events Givens discussed was the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the United Nations signed in 2007. The document was the product of the largest meeting of indigenous peoples in Norway in 2007. The UN approved the draft before consulting with the congregation of indigenous peoples, and it was passed in Sept. 2007 with several clauses removed, including the right to self-determination. The United States signed it in 2013.
“I think we've got a growing group of college educated [people],” Givens said. “I think that we'll make progress. ... But I think there has to be some recognition of the current situation in order for it to get better.”
The CMA hosts several events throughout the year to highlight the diversity of the campus. This includes Latino heritage month in September, African American history month in February, Asian-Pacific Islander heritage month in April and Muslim heritage month in March.
“We try to create an inclusive environment and once you set that environment and allow students be who they are and fully express themselves that's how you get students to come in and be involved in our campus,” said Walls.
NASO is hosting a presentation by Kyle Whyte in Halle 300 on Nov. 5 at 5:30 p.m., as well as a poetry night at the Student Center on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m. with special guests the 1491s. There will also be a game night at the Student Center on Nov. 24 at 6 p.m.
"Native Americans are the smallest minority on campus," Rebecca Thomas, political coordinator for NASO said. "Native American culture as a whole is very diverse and often misrepresented."