To kick off Native American Heritage Month, the University of Connecticut’s Native American Cultural Programs hosted guest speaker Jonathan Perry of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts. He spoke about protecting the past and preserving the future of natural resources, community knowledge and sovereignty for the Aquinnah People.
Perry explained the complex history of his tribe and how they settled in the Massachusetts area. He emphasized the importance of preserving his culture and recognizing the influence of Native Americans on current society.
Fifth semester Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies major Reilly Stevens, an intern with the Native American Cultural Programs, was excited to attend.
“I am very interested in the history of voices being silenced in the United States,” Stevens said. “I think it is important to spread awareness in any way that we can, especially since Native American history in the United States is one that… has historically been squashed down. ”
One of the chief event organizers, Brianna Miloz, held similar sentiments regarding the importance of Native American cultural awareness, especially during Heritage Month.
“It is an opportunity to spread awareness about the Native American Culture,” Miloz said. “It is important to always continue to increase your cultural compass by taking the time to learn about other cultures that surround us.”
Miloz also emphasized the importance of reflection on past events.
“Many people are unaware about this community and the hardships that they face and have faced,” Miloz said. “It is important for our society to understand what we did and how we came and took over land that was never ours to begin with and what kind of lasting effect that had on the Native American and Indigenous Peoples communities.”
At one point in Perry’s speech, he touched on the fact that UConn and many other places like it were built on Native American land.
Miloz believes it is important for students to know that the land grant for UConn did not take into account Native American rights.
“This land was not someone else's to give because it was the land of Indigenous People,” Miloz said.
Other students also advocated for more representation of Native American issues on campus. Third semester ACES student Reid McClendon was at the event to learn more about the subject.
“I want to hear some thoughts on Native American culture and what we can do to preserve their culture,” McClendon said.
According to McClendon, Native American issues are not discussed enough.
“Because Native Americans are a minority, it is not like they get the recognition they deserve,” McClendon said.
The Native American Cultural Programs Office is constantly looking to expand their reach and inform more students about Native American culture, Miloz said.
“Students are always welcome to stop by the office which is located in the Student Union Room 416b.” Miloz said. “Students can get involved by attending our craft nights, book club or any other events we put on throughout the semester…. We are very passionate about bringing awareness to Native American Culture and look forward to connecting with others who are interested in learning more.”
EllieAnn Lesko is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.