May 27, 2017

Native American Culture Week designed to celebrate indigenous heritage

Michelle Stevens, a Sac State professor of environmental studies, gives the "Healing the Land: Traditional Knowledge and Management" lecture about how indigenous people from various tribes discovered "a rich source of information" by learning about their environment as part of the Native American Culture Week in the University Union Foothill Suite on Monday. (Photo by Samantha Leonard)

The annual Native American Culture Week at Sacramento State started Monday and will be filled with events and discussions meant to address current issues and celebrate the traditions of indigenous cultures.

These events include a performance by Native American dancers, a preview of the film “Shouting Secrets,” and a discussion panel about the Dakota Access Pipeline. These were chosen through collaboration between students, staff and faculty.

“We will have traditional dancers, singers, native children’s dance groups, arts and crafts presentations and traditional native games,” said David Ortega, a Sac State counselor who works with Ensuring Native Indian Traditions (EINT). “It’s very important to the community. They see it as an acknowledgement — by the university — of the importance of Native culture and traditions in today’s society.”

Native American Culture Week has been a tradition at Sac State since the 1970s, according to Ortega.

Ortega said that he started his involvement with the event when he was a student, and has contributed off and on ever since.

“While we look at some serious issues, we also want to celebrate the beauty and traditions of native culture,” Ortega said. “Times may seem a little bleak for some, but I guarantee you once you see the children dance and hear the drum, things will seem a little brighter.”

The week ends on Friday with an event titled “Go Native,” which was facilitated by a club member Cecilia Chavez. The event includes the performance of traditional songs and dances in addition to art activities for the public.

The first event of Native American Culture Week was a lecture given by Michelle Stevens, a Sac State professor of environmental studies.

In her presentation titled “Healing the Land: Traditional Knowledge and Management”, Stevens spoke about Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), which refers to how indigenous people from various tribes discovered “a rich source of information” by learning about their environments.

Stevens said in her presentation that TEK comes from traditional stories and teachings from natural law.

“The thing I love most is working with traditional people,” Stevens said. “And this sense of reciprocal relationships with spirit [and] nature without being commissioned and being humble…is intrinsic to this belief system.”

She spoke about preserving cultural practices, as well as treating tribes and tribal organizers as research partners in shaping the way people understand environmental issues.

Finance major Simranjot Kaur said it was interesting to see “how the past affects the future, how the elements of life are formed, and seeing how that affects the world today.”

Even though Kaur attended the event to fulfill a requirement for her ethnic studies class, she said, “I will definitely come to the next one.”

The next event of Native American Culture Week is a traditional dance performance today at 4:30 p.m. in the University Union’s Foothill Suite.

RELATED: Our coverage of other Native American Culture Week events:

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Samantha Leonard

Samantha Leonard has been a staff writer for the State Hornet since Spring 2017. She is a sophomore studying journalism at Sacramento State and loves writing about entertainment, politics and arts. Samantha can be reached at [email protected]

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