Native American Heritage Month begins Wednesday
Situated on the ancestral homelands of the Coast Salish Peoples, Western Washington University will commemorate Native American Heritage Month in November with a full itinerary of campus events.
“We celebrate being Native every day,” said Tribal Liaison Laural Ballew, “but the month is a great opportunity for us to share that knowledge and use that platform to remind everyone that we are still here.”
Ballew, along with Student Resilience Director Brandon Joseph and Grey Webster, a program coordinator in Woodring College of Education, are leading the coordination of Native American Heritage Month along with Multicultural Services Director Amy Salinas Westmoreland.
The month's events include a kick-off celebration, a IndigiQueer fashion show, panel discussions and much more. The events are all intentionally thought out to highlight the diversity and heritage of Native American communities.
Historical policies of forced assimilation in education – such as boarding schools – aimed to erase Indigenous languages, cultures, and traditions. Addressing the injustices of the past and creating an environment where Indigenous students and faculty can thrive are vital to create a more inclusive and equitable future at Western.
“The important part of celebrating Native heritage month... is to acknowledge what we have endured as a people, but to remind people that we are not defined by that trauma,” said Joseph. “It's not all that we are. It is our desire that our cultures are celebrated.”
One of the focuses of the month is to celebrate within the local tribal communities like the Lhaq’temish Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe.
It’s also a chance for community members to learn more about “what it means to be Lummi,” said Joseph. “Many of our Native students are not from the area. It's a cross-cultural connection: We are guests here. It’s a way for us to lead by example. What does it mean to be guests here?”
Intersectionality and cross-cultural connection were also an important priority when planning these events. The IndigiQueer fashion show is a collaboration with LGBTQ+ Western and Indigenous artists to spotlight the intersection of Queer and Indigenous identities during Transgender Awareness week Nov. 13-19.
“All the events were intentionally thought out. We wrestled with themes for each one to represent what we wanted to say,” said Webster, who is also a staff advisor for the Native American Student Union.
Native American Heritage Month is not just about the past; it is about the present and the collective commitment to a more inclusive and interconnected future.
Want to support Native American Heritage Month? The best way is to show up to the events.
“Come be in community with us! My call to the campus is to show up and be present,” said Joseph.
The month starts off with a library display on Nov 1, in the Hacherl Research and Writing studio in Haggard Hall. To see the full list of events this month visit the WWU Native American Heritage Month site.
All the events are open to members of the campus and beyond, including:
All-month-long library display of staff picks featuring Native and Indigenous authors.
Kick-Off Celebration with gallery works of Native artists, singing, dancing, poetry reading, and a film screening.
Three panel discussions about the history of Native American boarding schools, Children of the Setting Sun Production’s “Land Acknowledgement,” on collections management, and on coordinating Indigenous artists.
IndigiQueer Fashion Show featuring Native American designers. Enjoy fashions featuring Copper Canoe Woman, 10 Buffalos, and student designers.
WWU Athletics Native American Heritage Nights for women’s and men’s basketball games.