The Native American Council is looking to showcase the traditions and history of indigenous peoples this month—a month that could end with the group being given its own 114th Street brownstone.
November is Native American Heritage Month, and the council is hosting a number of cultural events and forums to explore what it means to be indigenous in America in 2012. The group is also one of six finalists for three brownstones, and administrators are expected to release a decision by Nov. 30.
Julian Noisecat, CC ’15 and the council’s treasurer, said that the events the group is putting on this month are “a good opportunity to share our culture and experiences.” The council’s Cultural Showcase on Friday featured a drumming circle, performances from various students—including signature dances from the students’ respective tribes—and modeling of native clothing.
“Native people are completely forgotten or misrepresented in our day-to-day culture,” said Noisecat, who is from the Shuswap and St’at’imc tribes in British Columbia.
“The theme is Native or American, which explores the indigenous peoples’ relationship with the U.S., Canada, and Mexico,” he added.
Council president Lakota Pochedley, CC ’13, said she sees this month as a learning experience.
“The heritage month events are meant to expose the community to our presence,” she said. “Indians don’t just exist way out in the country.”
NAC members said the events are also meant to highlight the problems that exist regarding for Native American and indigenous students at Columbia. Several said that they feel increasingly marginalized and underrepresented on campus—which is why NAC is applying for a brownstone.
The council made its final presentations to the Brownstone Review Committee on Friday. NAC members emphasized the importance of getting housing and a meeting space specifically for indigenous students. Fantasia Painter, CC ’13 and vice president of NAC, said that the brownstone would provide a safe space that the University hasn’t provided for the group.
Right now, the group reserves the Malcolm X Lounge, which primarily serves African-American students, for meetings. But it is often crowded and insufficient for group discussions and gatherings, Noisecat said.
Sara Chase, CC ’14, said that she sees the brownstone as a safe spiritual space for Native American students. She said that she often felt uncomfortable doing religious rituals in her dorm.
The brownstone, she believes, would change that, because she would be living with people who understand her religion.
“Getting the brownstone will mean, ‘Yes, we’re here. It’s OK,’” she said. “The space is a lasting impression on the community.”
“You constantly had to justify what you’re doing and who you are,” she said.
Noisecat also cited frustration with the council’s ability to prepare for the Cultural Showcase. He said that council members often could not find space to practice.
Considering these space issues, members said that a brownstone would be a monumental step in being recognized as an active student organization.
“We deserve a presence, and that requires us to live together as a community,” Noisecat said.
“The survival of our community at Columbia absolutely depends on it,” Painter said.
Still, Noisecat said he’s reluctant to assume that the council will get a brownstone.
“I think our chances of getting the house are the same as what Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse had in the Battle of Little Big Horn,” he said.