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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

UC Davis celebrates Native American Culture Days

From April 14 to 18, UC Davis celebrated Native American Culture Days, an annual week of events that creates an opportunity for both Native American students and the Davis community as a whole to explore and celebrate Native American culture.

The event, which was put on by the Cross Cultural Center (CCC), has been going on for more than 30 years. The activities during the week are planned by a committee of Native American students at UC Davis.

“Native American Culture Days is important to the Davis community because of the significance of indigenous cultures and connecting culture and place,” said Crystal Marich, program coordinator and advisor at the CCC. “Also, it helps in recognizing and respecting the culture that really came before UC Davis. It really gives voice to our native students on campus. A lot of times they feel invisible or that their culture is invisible. It’s really empowering and a way for them to share their culture.”

According to Marich, the students have a lot of creative freedom in planning the week’s events.

Events are planned based on the political climate, campus climate and the priorities of the students in the committee. Several events are also planned in conjunction with the LGBTQIAQ Resource Center and Native American Studies Department at UC Davis.

Monique Merritt, a committee intern at the LGBTQIAQ Resource Center and a second-year psychology and women and gender studies double major, participated in the Native American Culture Days committee in planning.

“I really feel like there is not enough awareness or knowledge about Native American people, which is really problematic because these were the people taking care of the land we all live on now,” Merritt said. “Far too often the Native American people are tokenized and made fun of. Their culture is constantly appropriated. Native American Culture Days are an opportunity to share their community and the aspects people need to know to understand the culture better. It also provides a space for those who identify as Native American on campus to feel accepted.”

This year’s events included a hand-drum making workshop, a discussion on environmental activism in Native American territory and a presentation on indigenous oral storytelling traditions.

“Aside from the cultural aspect, we gained a tremendous insight into the necessity of environmental activism in today’s age for the healing and prolonging of life on this planet,” said Adit Dixit, another member of the Native American Culture Days committee. “For those who participated, it was quite a great experience from the ordinary, calm college town bubble that Davis usually feels like.”

The week began with the annual sunrise ceremony on April 14, and ended with the annual sunset ceremony on April 18.

“People will gather to greet the sun as it rises with songs, dances, words, thoughts and good energy,” Marich said. “We watch the sun rise and set out our intentions for the week. We set out good energy for the week and take a moment to reflect and meditate.”

Additionally, though not considered part of Native American Culture Days, the 42nd annual Powwow occurred on April 19.  However, both Native American Culture Days and Powwow give an opportunity for students to learn more about Native American culture, and Native American Culture Days is usually planned for the week leading up to Powwow.

ALYSSA VANDENBERG can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

Photos by Ciera Pasturel.

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