For attendees of the Native American Heritage Month kick-off Wednesday night, the evening was replete with cultural reflection—as well as fry bread and Indian tacos.
With a Native American-style banquet and speakers on hand in Barnard Hall, students and faculty celebrated the beginning of the month dedicated to appreciation of American Indian culture.
The presence of Native American studies has expanded on campus recently, especially with the addition of Audra Simpson to the Columbia anthropology department. While she is somewhat new to the Columbia scene, her pilot classes have been well attended, indicating a growing interest in the area. “I was stunned by my enrollments,” she said in an interview earlier this semester.
Simpson was the keynote speaker Wednesday, where she touched on her research as an anthropologist—one that emphasizes “the way we think about citizenship, nationality, indigenality,” she has previously said—and stressed the importance of having a particular month set aside to reflect on her Native American heritage in addition to an ongoing celebration of American Indian culture.
Native American Heritage Month co-coordinators John Hudson Haney, CC ’11, and Halley Hair, CC ’11, have planned events for the coming month that will explore heritage through music, food, dance, and other events.
“In past years, we focused on stereotypes or arts, but this year we wanted to keep it a little more local,” Hair said. She and Haney had been reading a book called “Indians in Unexpected
Places,” an essay collection about Native Americans in the early 20th century, and drew inspiration from it for this year’s theme: “Native New York: Indigenous in the City.”
They then worked to organize a set of events that would emphasize different types of natives and the ways they form communities in the city.
Berkley Brady, a film student in the School of the Arts, said she enjoyed the warmth—and especially the food—of the opening ceremony banquet, and thought it reflected the spirit of the month.
“It was very generous. The atmosphere was very comfortable in comparison to other more politicized events,” she said.
Upcoming events include a panel discussion on the legacy of Thanksgiving, as well as the Native Arts Festival later in November. Programming for Native American Heritage Month will run through the end of the month and conclude with a Dec. 1 closing ceremony in Lerner Hall.
Co-coordinator Haney noted, “Native American Heritage Month allows us to reflect on the past and look toward the future.”