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Mace & Crown | March 21, 2018

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ODU Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

ODU Celebrates Native American Heritage Month
Photo Taken by Alex Yerena

Photo Taken by Alex Yerena

SaiJai Miller
Contributing Writer

Members of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma, as guests of the Nansemond Indian Tribe of Virginia, visited ODU on Nov. 1, 2016. The visit marked the beginning of Native American Heritage Month, also referred to as American Indian History Month. Chris and Cindy Bowman came to ODU to inform, celebrate and invite Monarchs to participate in the national observance. One way to connect with this culture would be to attend a Pow-Wow. Pow-Wows are celebrations of Native American culture and often open to the public. Chris shared his motivation to expose others to Native American Art, which was displayed, including style flutes, traditionally used by men to court women, fans used by dancers to illustrate their dance and practically used to cool off, jewelry and Ledger Art. Chris shared the history about style flutes where a man would show his romantic affection by creating a flute for a woman. The flute would only be played for her and if she rejected him, the flute would be destroyed.

Cindy spoke about her family’s history. Her great-grandmother was forced into one of the American Indian Boarding Schools where Indian culture was not allowed to thrive. The children were given ledger books, and these were used to draw or create art. This was a painful experience for many Native American families during the 1900s where it was feared to speak or teach about their culture. Cindy appreciates the opportunity to share her story with others while educating the next generation of Americans.

“You want to be understood and do not want to be insulted,” Cindy said.

She lamented that the media does not cover Native American issues, including American Indian Heritage Month, moving to speak on the protest in North Dakota where indigenous people have invited other Americans and members of the public to protest the creation of a pipeline on tribal land, in violation of historical treaties.

“Embellishments can occur on both sides of political issues and it is important to research the topic,” the Bowmans said, suggesting that the public  “learn more about American Indians by region,”

Chris divulged that Oklahoma translated from Choctaw means ‘home of the red man.’ In Oklahoma, assimilation had already occurred with the arrival of the French. This locale was formally educated by the French. Trade routes were established that remain to present day, although under different names. During the 1800s, European culture became assimilated into the region. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act removed Indians from their original lands to the West and some Tribes migrated to Canada. The U.S. Government, under the Department of Interior Affairs, now under the Office of Indian Affairs, managed the American Indian population where the Bowmans reason the “Mindset of the government that Indians are equivalent to animals.”

Other community members were on-hand participants of ODU’s observance including Dr. Helen Rountree, Kimberly Epperson, Bill Rogers, and Lee Lockamy. Lockamy was presented with a proclamation from Virginia Beach the evening of Nov. 1, recognizing the Nansemond Tribe as the official tribe of Virginia. The Nansemond are documented as being in Virginia before the English arrived in the 1600s. Rogers is an honorary member of the Nansemond Tribe. Epperson, who is not part of the tribe, shares portions of her proceeds with the tribe. Dr. Rountree provided handouts on the Nansemond Tribe and the Indian Tribes of Virginia and gave instruction to event attendees on how to create Dreamcatchers.

“My friend texted me [about the event, today.] I have Indian background from the James and York Rivers [region] and wanted to learn more about that part of my ancestry,”  Leah Johnson said, who came to the event to learn about the Dreamcatchers.