November is Native Heritage Month, yet it can be overshadowed by a holiday that can be hard to celebrate. Thanksgiving can be potentially triggering for certain cultures without proper education. Organizations like the North American Indigenous Student Organization, or NAISO, are working to bring education and inclusion to campus.
Neely Bardwell is one of the co-chairs of NAISO as well as a co-chair and founder of the James Madison College Native Student organization.
“My main focus on campus is to make sure that Native students have a safe and welcoming space and to create an inclusive and equitable environment on campus for Native students,” Bardwell said.
She goes on to express how she feels the university is handling the upcoming holiday and her own perspective on how isolating this time of the year can be.
“I mean, for me and for a lot of other Native people Thanksgiving is a day of mourning,” Bardwell said. “And so it can be really hard to consistently talk about these things with people when it like that is the way that be kind of not celebrate but kind of partake in that holiday.”
Emily Sorroche, associate director of the office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was a previous advisor of NAISO.
She said steps are being taken in the right direction to ensure that all students of Michigan State, no matter their background, are being accounted for.
“One of the things I feel like is being done, I think indigenous voices are starting to be heard a little bit more and supported in the sense of acknowledging Indigenous Peoples Day and acknowledging our Native Heritage Month and being a little bit more visible when we are acknowledging Native Heritage Month as well," Sorroche said.
The Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions, or OCAT, is hosting a Unity Dinner in Brody classrooms on Nov. 24 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
“A friend of mine actually created that effort,” Sorroche said. "It was first called 'homiesgiving' and it was is basically the effort around Friendsgiving - just coming together, eating and sharing that memory together. That's literally what it represented at the time. Also because the families are the people who would participate and the students they were all not from Michigan.”
Deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen said MSU also provides resources for those who need support during these upcoming days.
“There are a number of ways we support our diverse communities throughout the break," Olsen said.
He referenced an article from the Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion detailing the history of Thanksgiving and listing on-campus resources, like OCAT.
Sorroche recognized the effort MSU is making to put an emphasis on rewriting what this holiday is remembering and celebrating.
“There's moving forward and understanding and receiving and now (MSU is) doing, so I did appreciate that change-up and to me, that's a good step forward," Sorroche said. "And acknowledging that 'we hear you' for those indigenous voices that were working to help lift up some of those truths.”
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