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Northwestern Observes Native American Heritage Month

Events, films, forums and lectures mark the University’s observance during November

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance at Northwestern University announced the observance of Native American Heritage Month on campus throughout November.

Wilson Smith, co-director of the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance (NAISA), said this observance of Native American Heritage Month “marks a particularly important time for Northwestern” because it coincides not only with the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre but also with the expected release of the University's Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force report. 

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs reports the idea to honor Native Americans began at the start of the last century with “an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S.” That effort has now resulted in “a whole month being designated for that purpose,” according to the bureau, which is part of the Department of the Interior.  http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/about/

NAISA events planned for November at Northwestern and off campus include lectures by prominent scholars, documentary film screenings, open forums and an on-campus observance of the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.

One of the main events of the monthlong tribute will be the Nov. 22 on-campus commemoration of Sand Creek’s anniversary, which will begin at 1 p.m. that day with a march from the Weber Arch to the lakefill. There, remembrance events will take place, including a bonfire, prayer, songs and other remarks by members of the Native American community, according to NAISA.

The commemoration is intended to mark the Nov. 29, 1864, event in which more than 700 U.S. cavalry members descended on a peaceful encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians at Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado. The attackers killed an estimated 150 people, three-fourths of them women and children, according to the May 2014 report of the John Evans Study Committee of Northwestern University. At the time, John Evans, one of Northwestern University’s founders and chairman of the board of trustees, was the territorial governor of Colorado.

NAISA said the Nov. 22 commemoration of Sand Creek is a remembrance of the lives lost that day and “a call for deeper awareness” of both Evans’ response to the massacre and “the significance those and similar events bear in relation to the existence of Northwestern University and the United States as a whole.”

Following is the NAISA Native American Heritage Month list of events:

November 4: Ned Blackhawk lecture at Newberry Library - 6 p.m.

Although this is not a NAISA-organized event, Ned Blackhawk is a member of the Evans Committee and will talk about Sand Creek in his remarks.

The Newberry Library described the event as follows: “Dr. Ned Blackhawk, an award-winning scholar and professor of history and American studies at Yale University, will be delivering the first of a new series of public lectures at the Newberry Library by distinguished scholars working in the interdisciplinary field of American Indian and Indigenous Studies. Professor Blackhawk’s talk, “John Evans and the Question of Genocide,” will examine critical intersections between the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 and recent inquiries into local history. A brief public reception will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by the lecture and discussion.”

November 5: Collaborative Reading of “From Sand Creek” by Simon Ortiz at Cosí - and NAISA fundraiser

-- 6:30 p.m. -- NAISA will be hosting a collaborative reading of Simon Ortiz's \"From Sand Creek,\" a collection of poems honoring the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre, at Cosí, 1740 Sherman Ave., at Clark Street, in Evanston.

-- 4 to 9 p.m. -- Cosí customers can also drop their receipts into the NAISA box at the counter to contribute 20 percent of their purchases towards NAISA fundraising efforts.

November 6: Screening “Shadows of Liberty” – 7 p.m. - Harris L07


”’Shadows of Liberty’ reveals the truth of the news media: censorship, cover-ups and corporate control,” according to the film’s promoters. “’Shadows of Liberty’ is dedicated to the journalists and information freedom fighters who dedicated their lives to our right to freedom of information – the central pillar of a free society. ‘Shadows of Liberty’ provides a platform for voices that have been silenced, and in doing so attempts to inspire change and accountability. This film champions the idea of an independent media where truth and integrity are the norm, not the exception.”

November 10: Screening of “Our Fires Still Burn” – 7 p.m. - Annenberg G15

“The stories shared in ‘Our Fires Still Burn: The Native American Experience’ are powerful, startling, despairing and inspiring,” according to the documentary film’s website. “They reflect an American history fraught with the systematic destruction of a people. Yet, amidst the debris of suffering and trauma, there is resilience and a profound remembering and healing taking place today, which will also benefit the next Seven Generations. This exciting and compelling hour-long documentary DVD invites viewers into the lives of contemporary Native American role models living in the U.S. Midwest.”

November 12: Carlos Montezuma Honorary Lecture With Richard West – 6 p.m.

Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, 3001 Central St., Evanston – 6 p.m.

NAISA is partnering with the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian to present Richard West, the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. West is also a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho nations (the two groups targeted in the Sand Creek Massacre). He will give a talk at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian.

November 17: Dinner Dialogue With Campus Inclusion and Community – 5:30 p.m.

This free event is a collaboration between NAISA and office of Campus Inclusion and Community. It will be held at the Allison private dining room from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m, and it consists of a dinner and prompt-based discussion on topics including Sand Creek, the results of Northwestern’s investigation into John Evans’ role and response to the massacre, the University of Denver’s findings on the same issue and the importance of memory with regard to issues like this.

November 22: Campus Remembrance - Sand Creek Massacre’s 150th Anniversary – 1 p.m.

This event, held one week before the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, is a remembrance of the lives lost that day and a call for deeper awareness of both John Evans’ relations to the massacre and the significance those and similar events bear in relation to the existence of Northwestern University and the United States as a whole. The commemoration will begin at 1 p.m. with a march from the Weber Arch to the lakefill, where the remembrance events will take place, including a bonfire, prayer, songs and other remarks by members of the Native American community.


November 29: AIC commemoration of Sand Creek Massacre’s 150th Anniversary

The American Indian Center of Chicago, at 1630 West Wilson Ave., Chicago, will hold a 150th anniversary event Thanksgiving weekend. 

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