Learning more about Native American traditions

Twenty-seven years ago, President George H.W. Bush declared the month of November National American Indian Heritage Month.It’s the time to learn about the traditions and culture of the native people of the United States as well as their ways of living.

Richland celebrated Native American Heritage Month on Nov. 9 in the cafeteria.  The event was organized by the Office of Student Life (OSL) and the American English & Culture Institute (AECI).

Students, teachers and staff enjoy Santiago Villarreal's performance during the Native American Heritage Month celebration held in the cafeteria pit at Richland on Nov. 9.

Students, teachers and staff enjoy Santiago Villarreal's performance during the Native American Heritage Month celebration held in the cafeteria pit at Richland on Nov. 9.

Kristi Nealy, an OSL coordinator, welcomed guests and offered popcorn to start the celebration.

According to Nealy, it is very important to show how Native Americans lived in order to understand ancient American culture. 

Tram Nguyen makes a bracelet.

Tram Nguyen makes a bracelet.

This is why this November the OSL saw a chance to do something on campus to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

“Many of us have Native American blood in us, and it is important to celebrate and commemorate a rich heritage that has made our country what it is today,” Nealy said.

Students learned about Native Americans at the games table (crossword, Letter Soup) and at the book tables. At an art station, students learned to make necklaces and bracelets with colored beads.

Carl "Ed" Sinyard, a member of AECI, taught people how to make them. Sinyard also provided the educational materials, food samples and everything used to make art accessories.

“The heritage that American Indians left us should not be forgotten,” Sinyard said.Santiago Villarreal, a medicine singer-dancer, performed at the event. Villarreal wore a red shirt with colorful lines and accessories and did the dance with coyollis (bones or rattles) on his feet. He sang the beautiful song, “Everything Is Life.” 

Students, teachers and staff joined him in forming a circle. Everyone there played instruments such as rattles or maracas. After a break, Villarreal came back to sing and dance again. All of the participants gave thanks for something in their lives.

Santiago Villarreal gives onlookers a chance to shake rattles and maracas.

Santiago Villarreal gives onlookers a chance to shake rattles and maracas.

Villarreal said his interest in performing Native American music began when he was 12. He was inspired by his grandmother who wanted all Native American children to know about their ancestors and culture.

Villarreal has 30 years of experience as a medicine singer. He believes dancing is like praying. “Dancing and singing help people in different ways,” he said.

Native Americans connected mind and body with spirit and God. People have a balance in their lives due to this connection.

A handmade Tarahumada basket.

A handmade Tarahumada basket.

Villarreal explained that colorful fabrics on the small drum represent people of different races. A circle of people means power because the world is a circle that changes and comes back around again.

“Circle is the power in the world and everything is round. My work is to treat the Earth with respect, so I and all people should keep a good health in mind and body. Also, we have to learn to live with grace,” Villarreal said.

This event marked the importance of Native American, their wisdom about life and their values that contributed to building a strong country. During the event, visitors were shown the heritage that brave American Indians left on this country.

If you want to know more about Native American heritages, visit: www.ncal.org/