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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Native American Cultural Celebration

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November is Native American Awareness Month. In honor of this and in the hopes of setting a high standard for the organization, UMB’s fledgling Native American Student Society, in cooperation with the Anthropology Department, the Undergraduate Anthropology Club, and the Hispanic Studies Department, hosted its first event the afternoon of Wednesday, November 12 in Wheatley’s Student Lounge. However, lounging was hardly an option as the Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers delivered an engaging performance of social dances, often yanking students from their seats to participate.

Accompanied by rhythm sticks, a water drum, and the fluidity and minimalist beauty of their call and response, the performers demonstrated six different dances honoring their people’s spiritual connection with the earth around them and the creatures occupying it. Highlights included “The Moccasin Dance,” focusing primarily on the rapid stomping of the feet that left most of its UMB participants gasping for air. “The Duck Dance,” in which men and women respectively represented hunters and ducks, resulted in shrieks of laughter upon the hunters’ capture of their prey. “The Mosquito Dance” required partners to join fingers and kick their legs opposite each other. This dance proved an audience favorite as participants frequently bumped into each other, a mistake that, according to the dance troop, would result in run-ins with the insects. The singers and dancers closed with “The Stomp Dance,” which honored snakes and other legless creatures close to the ground. This follow-the-leader dance slithered in and out of the lounge and ended in a huddled, hopping congregation in the center of the room that left the audience, most of whom participated, applauding, smiling from ear to ear, and eager to indulge in the provided refreshments.

Performer and member of the Aquinnah community of the Wampanoag Nation, Jonathan Perry explained the group’s commitment to promoting the history of their people, “Basically, we’re modern people coming from a native background and we have continued to maintain a connection with who we are through time and for memoriam. It’s important that people that aren’t typically aware of our culture are exposed to it. All cultural exchange and interaction is important.”

Student Camille Crawford, one of around forty or so in attendance, agreed. “The Natives there were stunning in their dress and their dances were really interesting. I enjoyed the participation of the audience most, because it made it more of a gathering rather than a spectacle, you know. It seemed that most people were shy to get involved in the beginning, but their personalities were such that it made it easy to want to get involved in the dancing after a while. It’s great that they could come and teach us something more than the generic “Indian” knowledge we’re all taught in grade and high schools. I think it’s so important to understand where Native Americans are coming from, their struggle over sovereignty and for the rights to so many things that have been theirs for centuries” said Crawford.

Following the Wampanoag Singers and Dancers, Chairman of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs Maurice Foxx spoke on the issue of sovereignty and then fielded questions on contemporary Native American issues. The Native American Student Society members were pleased at the success of their inaugural event. “We thought we had to start off with a bang, something that says not only this club does exist, but these people exist and these issues exist,” offered club member Renata Tutko. President Cindy Wilson added, “We’re a new club trying to get the word out and help the community. We hope this event is a step towards future community outreach.”

For more information on the Native American Students Society and pow-wows in the area, visit www.nativeamericanstudentsociety.com.