This month, Native American students at the University will try to shatter the perception of their people as primitive and homogenous.

During November’s Native American Heritage Month, event organizers hope to expose students to many aspects of indigenous culture and identity.

This year’s programs will include an entire week devoted to exploring the link between black and Native American communities. Black Indian Celebration Week will take place from Nov. 10 to Nov. 17.

Put on by the Native American Student Association, as well as several black student groups and the Center for Afro-American and African Studies, other events will include weekly movies, lectures and workshops and art projects designed to increase the visibility of Native American culture on campus and dispel common misconceptions.

Native Americans make up only about 1 percent of students at the University, with 332 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in 2005, according to University data.

Because of the small number of students, Native Americans on campus are often overlooked, said LSA junior Brittany Marino, a member of the NASA.

“(Native American Heritage Month) is a chance for native people to celebrate their culture in an environment that doesn’t usually allow for that,” Marino said.

Programs during this week will include a workshop that shows students how to trace genealogies and family histories and a concert by Martha Redbone, a performer who is of black and Native American heritage and whose music fuses the styles of both cultures.

The histories of black and native peoples are deeply connected, and these connections are important in modern life, said CAAS Prof. Tiya Miles, who will give a lecture on the topic during the week. About 30 percent of black Americans identify with indigenous cultures, either through ancestry or through cultural practices that draw elements from native and black traditions, she added.

The two groups face many of the same problems, and recognizing their shared heritage may help them form coalitions and gain greater political power in many areas, including land preservation, Miles said.

Early interactions between the two communities have fueled ongoing debates over identity, she added.

For example, there are currently federal lawsuits that descendents of black Native Americans have filed against tribes such as the Seminole and Cherokee over their status as members of the tribe.

On a more personal level, acknowledgement of the link between Native Americans and blacks can empower individuals to recognize all of their identities, said LSA senior Alyx Cadotte, a NASA member and organizer of the week’s events.

“Sometimes, you’re made to choose, or sometimes, society perceives you as one and doesn’t allow you to identify with both,” said Cadotte, who doesn’t identify herself as black.

Other programs during the month will focus on issues affecting Native American communities – especially poverty and misrepresentation in American history.

Partially due to the low visibility of Native Americans on campus, many students have outdated and mistaken views of native culture, Marino said. Two of the most common misconceptions about Native Americans are that all tribes follow the cultural practices of the Plains Indians and that their societies have not changed since the days of western expansion, she added.

On Nov. 22, Tobias Vanderhoop, a member of the Wampanoag Tribal Council, will address the differences between the popular American image of the first Thanksgiving and the perspective of the Wampanoag, the tribe present at the 1621 feast.

Organizers hope this month’s programs will inform the University community about all of these issues and increase appreciation for the role of Native Americans in American society.

“It’s a thrilling culture,” Marino said. “And although we do face struggles, we haven’t disappeared.”

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