The Native American Student Association didn’t participate in this year’s Culture Night because of scheduling conflicts, the earlier date, a lack of resources, and the presidency’s desire to build the club to prepare for next year.
Lathaniel White, president of the Native American Student Association, said, “Adam and I really pushed for Culture Night, but after the logistics, World Fest and preparing for our first activity came around, we only had about a month and a half to prepare.”
Lathaniel, a freshman in hospitality and tourism management from Arizona, said he had a vision of what their performance would have been, but his plans continued to fall through. “I had planned to use the 808 drummers, but they wouldn’t be available for Culture Night, and only one of five hoop dancers I know was able to help out. Then as I was looking at costumes and seeing how many people we had sign up, it was just too soon. We had to submit our proposal a week after World Fest, and thinking of choreographing a dance and teaching it to a group for only two hours a week didn’t seem logistical,” Lathaniel said.
Lathaniel said this is his first semester in the presidency, and he didn’t find out until later that Culture Night was sooner. “I didn’t want to do it ‘half’ way, we wanted to do it right. We’re way less stressed.”
For its first activity of the semester, the club made Navajo tacos. The next activity, members did a Navajo language-learning activity with bingo. Lathaniel said, “This semester is building up towards next year, getting experience, and showing people what our chapter is about.
“I’m already planning a big event for the fall. There is a big pow-wow in town, and I’m trying to get a bus charter for that. Really this semester is a lot of buildup for next semester. Coming into this chapter, nothing was established and I didn’t have any paperwork or preparation.”
The association has more than 25 people signed up and invites anyone, non-members included, to come to their events. “I want to teach people correct understandings and notions people have about Native Americans. Hollywood and social stereotypes are all wrong,” said Lathaniel.
He said he is often asked if Native Americans still live in teepees and become rich from government reparation money. “There’s a lot more to us,” he said.
Shandiin White, a finance sophomore from Arizona, said she has had experience organizing Native American events, but they can be expensive. “The performances involve drum groups and dance groups. Regalia, the outfits, are really expensive. Those costumes can be $1,800 to $3,000 apiece,” said Shandiin White.
White explained that her mother was born on the reservation and she taught her and her siblings about their culture along with their grandparents. “The biggest thing is that we are kind of a small group, but we had an amazing opportunity to all come here. My brothers, CJ and Nathaniel and I are all here together and we are trying to spread our culture as much as we can,” she explained.
Lynne Hardey, a graphic design junior from Arizona, said she wishes the club could have participated in Culture Night, but they didn’t have the resources they needed. “We just need to get it going, and then we will have everything we need to make it awesome,” said Hardy.
“I’m just glad someone took the initiative to start a Native American culture and I’ve always been shy about my culture. I’m happy I’m in a place that embraces it,” said Hardy.
The Native American Student Association will have a closing social open to all students towards the end of the semester with more traditional foods, said Lathaniel. Adam Conte, the vice president, will teach hoop dancing, and Lathaniel will teach traditional flute lessons. Details can be found on OrgSync.