UND celebrates American Indian Heritage Month

UND holds film festival, discussions in honor of American Indian culture.

Project Assistant Lisa Casarez explains American Indian Heritage Month events in the Memorial Union. Photo by Chester Beltowski/The Dakota Student.

Native communities at UND and in Grand Forks have taken the opportunity to invite students and the public to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month. This November, the history, traditions and cultures of Native peoples across the United States are celebrated.

Film Festival

UND’s Indian Studies Association presented a variety of films for their eighth annual American Indian Film Festival. A mixture of feature films and documentaries were chosen by ISA members to be shown in the Memorial Union Lecture Bowl. The festival began Nov. 4 and continues until Nov. 20. Each film is followed by a discussion moderated by an ISA faculty and student member.

“(The ISA) seek not only films about Native America but also those that are made by American Indians and in which American Indians play prominent roles,” Indian Studies professor Alan Shackelford said. “The aim of the festival is to help those on campus explore the contributions American Indians have historically made to our nation and those that they continue to make in an increasingly diverse and dynamic society.”

Shackelford has been pleased with the attendance during the first half of the festival.

“I’m unsure what has caused it, but we have had very large turnouts for the first two evenings in the film series,” Shackelford said. “I’d say attendance has averaged 50 viewers, many of them from off-campus.”

Northstar Council

As the ISA celebrates on campus, the non-profit Northstar Council attempts to engage the community with their third annual Rendezvous at the Forks on Saturday. The event, hosted at the Empire Arts Center, will include a silent auction fundraiser, live performances, presentations and food.

“(Rendezvous at the Forks) gives the Grand Forks community a chance to come and find out more about Native American culture,” Northstar Council Project Assistant Lisa Casarez said. “A lot of people are not too familiar with Native American culture, so then it’s a chance to come learn more about it … and celebrate with us.”

The council’s mission is to “empower Indigenous people through research, education and outreach,” and is currently fund-raising to establish a Native American Cultural Center in Grand Forks. The ISA’s focus is on the role that campus can play in academic conversations about Native American past, present and future.

While the groups target different audiences, they both teach and share Native culture.

“We want to help people better understand Native culture,” Casarez said. “We can help break down stereotypes and prejudices and just kind of build that bridge with other groups of people. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating diversity and different people and where they come from.”

Both the ISA and Northstar Council said their organizations welcome all students and community members.

“ISA is not an American Indian student organization,” Shackelford said. “Its membership is open to all students interested in the formal study of Native America.”

Casarez mentions the openness the Northstar Council has as well.

“Anyone and everyone who is interested in learning and sharing about our mission to support us (we invite),” she said.

Paula Kaledzi is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].