Native American Heritage Month

Circle of Tribal Nations honors Native Americans in November

Ferris previously held a celebration in the quad for Native American Heritage Month.
Ferris previously held a celebration in the quad for Native American Heritage Month. Submitted Photo
November is full of holidays and celebrations, but one group on campus chose to honor Native American students.

Ferris students may be unaware due to the fact that a very small percentage (.9 percent, according to of the student body identifies as Native American.

The Circle of Tribal Nations is a group that attempts to broaden Ferris’ understanding of Native Americans to more than that .9 percent.

“Even if no one is doing anything, we’re making people aware,” Pre-Medicine freshman Elizabeth Nystrom said. “We’re just raising the chances that people will [do something].”

So far for Ferris’ 2014 Native American Heritage Celebration, the Circle of Tribal Nations hosted a Birch Bark Medallion Workshop in which participants learned to make birch bark, porcupine-quilled medallion necklaces. They also annually make and sell traditional dream catchers as a fundraiser for the programming they do.

Some members of the Circle of Tribal Nations also attended a “Ghost Supper” to celebrate deceased ancestors and loved ones at the Isabella Indian Reservation near Mt. Pleasant last weekend, Nov. 14-16.

“Native American tradition has unfortunately been stomped on and told, ‘that’s not okay,’” English education sophomore Tori VanOffelen said. “Our RSO basically focuses on keeping tradition alive, learning about it and respecting it.”

VanOffelen’s interest in the Circle of Tribal Nations stemmed from her desire to expand her knowledge about her Native American family history.

“I didn’t know anything about it because the person who was full Native American in my family lived at a time it was looked down upon to be Native American,” VanOffelen said. “So, that information gets lost with time and a lot of people today don’t know about their Native American heritage because of that.”

Due to past prejudices, many Native American students “have been tentative to speak on behalf of a race containing 500 different nations, 100 different cultures and countless religions,” Secondary Advisor to the Circle of Tribal Nations Andrea Lodholtz said.

“There are more differences than similarities and stereotyping has created unnecessary academic and personal challenges for many of our tribal students,” Lodholtz said. “Thus, our Circle is a support group in many ways.”

On Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in Williams Auditorium, the Circle of Tribal Nations is sponsoring “Fifty Years On – Wounded Body & Soul.” This event features a social justice presentation from Will and Company, a theater group from Los Angeles. They will explore issues faced by the Native American community fifty years ago and the role those issues play today.

An early Thanksgiving meal offering free, Native American food will also take place Nov. 24 at 5 p.m. in the IRC.