A Native American tradition

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A Native American tradition

April Porter, Online Editor

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The CWU Friendship Gathering and Pow Wow will bring Native American culture to the CWU campus so students and community members can learn about local tribes.

“People need to know natives are still relevant,” said La’Shawnda Mason, Center for Diversity and Social Justice (CDSJ) employee and a junior biology major.

The event is funded by a $6,000 grant from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, which the school has received for the last three years. The grant money is used to fund everything from food to the drums that will be played during musical performances.

A traveling Native American museum will be available for viewing, along with traditional dancing and storytelling.

According to Michelle D. Cyrus, Ellensburg has been the center for all the Native American tribes in the valley.

This event is a way to “honor the fact that we are on Native American land,” said Jacqueline Robinson, a transfer student with an undeclared major and member of the Cheholan Student Association (CSA).

Cyrus has been working at CWU for 24 years and is now the assistant director of Equity and Outreach.

It was Cyrus who had a conversation with the previous faculty members in her position in the early 1990s about putting on an annual Native American event.

Cyrus frequently traveled to Yakima and Toppenish to discuss the details of the Native American event. According to Cyrus, the process of creating and hosting the event is a “labor of love.”

She describes the relationship between Ellensburg and the Yakama Nation as turning into a “familyship” through this process of bringing Native American culture to the community of Ellensburg.

“They [the tribes in the valley] want it to be successful,” Cyrus said.

There will be a representation of the many tribes in the valley including Yakama Nation from Yakima.

Dancers will be presenting traditional Native American dancing from the Yakama Nation and a traditional dish of salmon and elk will be served for free.

While it is only Robinson’s first time helping to organize the Pow Wow Cyrus hopes she and the other CSA members continue the tradition.

“I’m looking forward to great music, food and the celebration,” Robinson said. “I identify with the Native American culture. It feels like home.”

Robinson explained that the CSA will hopefully be recognized officially as an organization by fall and encourages anyone who wants to be involved in Native American culture to join.

Mason has been a part of this celebration for all three years as an organizer.

“It always goes well,” Mason said. “We improve each quarter.”

One of the changes made this year is the event being in the spring instead of the fall. The warmer weather should bring in more participants from the CWU campus and Ellensburg community.

As the community is educated about the Native American culture, Mason wants people to know, “they [Native Americans] are human.” When Native Americans are treated poorly “we want you to say this isn’t right,” Mason said.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “A Native American tradition”

  1. Roberta Anita Strong on October 9th, 2018 10:15 am

    The Indian/Native American Club/Council was inspired and motivated by Lydian French Johnson in 1969/1970.. She encouraged myself, Roberta Strong, to gather the Indian students on Central Campus and start the Indian Club recognition. I hale Mrs. Lydia Johnson, to this day! However, Mrs. Johnson recently passed away this past week. I wanted to mention this in this post as a dedication to Mrs. Lydia French Johnson for that encouragement, inspiration and the motivation she bestowed on the Indian community on Central campus.

  2. Roberta Anita Strong on October 9th, 2018 10:25 am

    There is a full page photo of Lydia French Johnson in front the Commons building that year. This is the photo I requested earlier for a commemoration for her funeral as recognition of her life’s accomplishments. In this photo she was advising me to gather our Indian students and start up the Indian Club on Central Campus. That photo is one I still would request a copy, please. If anyone can assist with this. The photo is in the yearbook….

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A Native American tradition