CWU honors Native American culture with an open house

Samuel Beaumonte, Staff Reporter

Last Wednesday, Nov. 9,  the Museum of Culture and Environment paid tribute to the land CWU occupies  by hosting a open house open to all students and guests as a part of Native American Heritage history month.

“I feel that it went exceptionally well. We had a much larger turnout than I had expected and I was very much enthused,”  Michele Cyrus, assistant director of equity and outreach, said. While the open house has been held for years, this is the first that it’s been held at the museum.

“The reason that we changed this is for students to experience the museum here [at CWU]. It’s critical to pay tribute and I feel that it’s a more appropriate venue and welcoming location,” Cyrus said.

The museum open house featured Native American sculptures, paintings, traditional food and guests who played an arrangement of songs and shared the meaning of the name Kittitas, which translated to a meeting place or safe environment where the one rule was that there should be no conflict.

“It was really focused towards students and sharing resources such as faculty and staff as well tribal members. We really wanted to show them that there is a community,” Kandee Cleary vice president of inclusivity and diversity said. “I think it’s built and provided a community for students, Native American students in particular connect to each other and provide support for each other.”

In addition to showcasing Native American culture, another program, the Native American Student Association (NASA) was present  and it’s president gave a speech regarding it’s resurgence and potential support for students.

“From my perspective, students who identify as Native American may lose that time with their elders who traditionally teach them the culture,” Justin Francisco , a member of NASA who’s majoring in intercultural communications and minoring in ethnic studies and business, said. “They have to choose between education and cultivating their identity. I believe that NASA can be a platform that gives them the opportunity to celebrate and discuss their culture.”

NASA is open to anyone who’s interested in learning about Native American heritage or wants to get involved with the community; at the same time, it’s meant to allow the Yakima Nation to share its culture through the association. “I think it’s an awesome start for NASA, you don’t have to be a Native American student. We wanted to build a community and that’s what [NASA] is all about,” Cyrus said.

“Personally my drive is in understanding the Native American history and keeping it from fading away,” Francisco said.

The open house was used as a recruiting effort for NASA and a platform for showcasing traditions and history. A sign-up sheet was provided and students who were interested were urged to join the contact list.