The Multicultural Student Center hosted a feast to kick off Native American Heritage Month.
Additionally, the event served as a welcoming event to the new elder-in-residence, Ada Deer.
The elders-in-residence program is new to the University of Wisconsin, and focuses on improving the experience of American Indian and Alaskan Native students by hosting Native elders on campus.
Deer is a UW alumnus and a Menominee Nation member. She has worked as a community organizer and political activist for Native American rights, and is the first woman to serve as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
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Before the feast, participants passed burning sage as a means of “restoring balance” to everything they did.
Dylan Jennings, a tribal council member for the Bad River Band of Lakes Superior Ojibwe, spoke at the event and explained some of the histories of Native American traditions.
Before smoking a pipe, Jennings explained how Native Americans often used tobacco as a “conduit for communicating to the spirits that take care of us.”
“I am really grateful for [the resurgence of original tobacco] because that is part of our nation-building attempts and our decolonization attempts,” Jennings said.
Jennings also said that many Native American communities are again growing “original, homegrown” tobacco, as opposed to commercialized tobacco.
Jennings also briefly touched on recent events for Native American representation in politics in light of the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
“We got two Native women in Congress … This is a pretty epic time for us,” Jennings said. “I think that is just amazing.”