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Davis, California

Thursday, February 22, 2024

“Moving Forward, Giving Back”

November is Native American Heritage Month. UC Davis celebrates through the Cross Cultural Center this month with the theme of “Moving Forward, Giving Back.” A series of speakers, films and events take place until Nov. 18.

Typically the program is scheduled in April, however, Native American Culture Days was moved to November to coincide with the national celebration of Native American culture. The program is broadly supported and generated by staff, students, ASUCD and the community.

“We collaborate with as many people as we can,” said Culture Programs Advisor and Coordinator Melissa Johnson, Ph.D. “The program is for the students and the community — it’s what they wanted to see on the calendar.”

The Cross Cultural Center (CCC) worked together with American Indian Recruitment and Retention (AIRR) as well as many other campus groups to put on events for the entire campus community this month. Held at places such as the Memorial Union, lecture halls, Shields Library and Gorman Museum, these events shed light on topics that the CCC want the campus to know.

“We have an openness to share and invite people to know about native people and their challenges,” said Hailey Ferroni, a fifth-year psychology and Native American Studies double major and sexuality studies minor and Student Director of AIRR. “Students should take a look at the events and see what stands out to them.”

Along with providing program support and being a spokesperson, Ferroni will be a part of the student panel on Nov. 17, hosted by AIRR.

“People should realize that Native Americans are a small population on campus and that we should give them opportunity to share their heritage,” Johnson said. “It’s always important to me that the diversity of students on campus is recognized — we have a lot of diversity represented in our students.”

With Culture Days programs going on throughout the year, the CCC reaches out to multiple racial groups on campus.

“I think all of the Culture Days can create an impact,” said Assistant Director of the CCC Andrea Gaytan. “To bring issues that are relevant to the community to the forefront and educate [them] is empowering.”

In order to captivate the mind in an art form, Native American Culture Days is using films to educate and entertain. With films such as Reel Injun — On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian which depict how Native Americans are portrayed in movies, the program seeks to educate and inform their viewers.

“The Native American culture is still very strong. There are still some stereotypes that exist,” Johnson said. “We’re bringing it back strong. It’s vital that people recognize what native culture contributes to the world.”

The film Two Spirits is a collaboration between UC Davis Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center and AIRR to educate viewers on how differently sexual orientation is identified in Native American culture. Two Spirits will show at Shields Library on Monday at 11:30 a.m.

All films will focus on the theme of Native American life, whether it be historical or contemporary. The film Uneasy Remains was created by series of graduate students and will include an answer period and discussion. The film was shown on Wednesday.

According to Johnson, many of the theories and ideas of the modern world actually originate from Native American culture.

“What people think is so contemporary is actually rooted from natives,” Johnson said. “Post-modern theory and the ideas of connection, equality and understanding orientations were all embraced by native culture from the beginning.”

The theme of this year’s Native American Culture Days is “Moving Forward, Giving Back,” meaning that native students come to university, get degrees and through education, they educate themselves to go back to their communities to strengthen and teach.

“The emblem is a graduate student with a shadow of a native dancer,” Johnson said. “To remember their past, but move forward, to find strength in numbers and invite those who aren’t active in the community, are all a part of this theme.”

Through film, art, speakers and teaching, Native American Culture Days takes place this month to inform and educate students and community members of the small yet prominent group on campus and in our country.

“You can learn how Native American culture is interwoven into American culture,” Johnson said. “It’s not just historical, it’s very much alive.”

ELIZABETH ORPINA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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