The Mosaic House was filled with laughter and conversation Thursday, Oct. 3 as 83 students gathered to make dream catchers and learn about American Indian culture and history in honor of National American Indian heritage month.
The program was run by the Mosaic House and the resident assistant (RA) diversity and inclusion committee. According to Stephanie Collins, interim director of multicultural programming and residential communities, the RAs decided they wanted to do an event that would be both interactive and educational.
In the past, programs related to American Indian Heritage month have sponsored movie screenings usually followed by group discussions. This year, though, those planning the event wanted to be able to engage students in order to teach them about issues American Indians face.
“We were hoping to do something to draw students in without being intimidating because some of these large discussions can be intimidating,” Collins said.
Sophomore Kyle Lumbert, an RA in Schlosser Residence Hall who is also on the diversity and inclusion committee, talked about the fact that Schlosser used the event as a building activity. They were able to get a group of around 25 residents. According to Lumbert, everyone seemed to have a good time and really enjoyed the event.
“I think it’s great that we are celebrating all kinds of diversity. It was a great bonding time for people of all cultures to come together and learn,” first-year and Schlosser resident Savannah Martinez said.
In order to facilitate the program, Collins encouraged the members of the RA diversity and inclusion committee to research local native tribes. Specifically, she wanted them to learn about the population of local tribes at their peak versus their population now. She said that the drops in populations were astronomical.
In addition to learning about the population statistics of local tribes, she also encouraged the RAs to research the creation myths of each of the tribes they researched. Collins talked about how while many tribes have different creation stories, the similarities are often striking. A common connection is the emphasis on the importance of nature and the relationship between nature and people.
Lumbert commented that when doing their research, the RAs noticed that almost all of the tribes they found had some sort of connection to the creation and use of dream catchers. This research gave life to their event planning.
In addition to the dream catchers, there was also information related to American Indian heritage being shown on different televisions throughout the house. In addition to the general heritage and culture, those in charge of planning the event were also talking to students about the Dakota Access Pipeline and its effects on American Indians.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is, according to daplpipelinfacts.com, “a new approximate 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that will connect the rapidly expanding Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.”
The construction of this pipeline has caused protests in North Dakota that have drawn many people from across the country since August. Recently, the tensions between protesters and police have reached a boiling point and there have been reports of the use of sound cannons, pepper spray and Taser guns against protesters by police officers.
The New York Times reports that 411 protesters have been arrested since August, among them was famous actress Shailene Woodley, who garnered national attention and support for the movement when she was arrested while streaming live on Facebook.
The pipeline has the potential to pollute sacred water on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The hope of those running the Mosaic House program was to show students that they stand in a place in which they can be advocates for causes such as this.
Collins encouraged students who were passionate about this issue to reach out to their local officials and tell them to help end the construction of the pipeline. Collins wants to encourage all students to be advocates for issues they are passionate about, in whatever capacity they are able.
“I really love advocacy projects, so if students are interested in a topic and it’s something they’re passionate about, I want to connect them to their passion,” Collins said.
The house will be hosting other programs throughout the year encouraging diversity-related discussions and advocacy, including a Respecting All Perspective (RAP) session about the Black Lives Matter Movement to be held Thursday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. in the Mosaic House. The event will be followed by a memorial outside the Brossman Commons to remember the lives of those lost to police-related incidents.
Collins is excited to continue providing this kind of programming for students and seemed happy to have been able to engage a large number of students in the American Indian Heritage Month event.
“We talk about diversity, and we should be talking about all kinds of diversity,” Collins said. “It’s important that everyone’s heritage be respected and learned about.”