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Illustration of Native American student, Sierra Seward

Illustration of Native American student, Sierra Seward

SuYoung Park/Illustration

SuYoung Park/Illustration

Illustration of Native American student, Sierra Seward

Representation Matters

The importance of Native American Appreciation Day

November 13, 2017

Nathaniel Devish, issues and awareness coordinator for Student Life, hosts a presentation Nov. 14 in honor of Native American Heritage Day. The event from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Fireside Lounge includes an exhibition of Native American culture, representing different tribes in Washington.

Legislation introduced by former U.S. Rep. Joe Baca, a Democrat from Califonia, and signed into law by former President George W. Bush in 2008, designates the Friday following Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. The bill was supported by the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) and 184 federally recognized tribes. The first holiday was held Nov. 28, 2008, and commences annually after being passed by the Senate and House of Representatives.

Though a civic holiday, some individual states such as Maryland recognize Native American Heritage Day as a state holiday. The importance of the holiday serves to highlight the relationship between the U.S. government and Native Americans as well as Native American contributions in the states.

The day is meant to encourage Americans of all backgrounds to enhance their understanding about Native Americans and their culture through participating in ceremonies and activities.

Schools are also more inclusive with their learning experience by adding to their curriculum of Native American history and achievements. There’s also individual states that celebrate November as Native American Month.

Sierra Seward is a Native American student works with the rehab center on the Nisqually reservation and a Pierce student studying criminal justice. When it comes to Native American culture and identity, she is proud of her heritage.

“It’s something that’s always been a part of me, and I’m very proud of my heritage and the ability to pass that down to my daughter,” Seward said.

While she does not personally celebrate Native American Heritage Day, she is encouraged that Student Life is focusing on it.

“Though I’m not personally involved with the Student Life event, I appreciate their efforts in trying to be inclusive and celebrating different cultures,” she said.

Native American Heritage Day is officially recognized this year on Nov. 24.

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