Autumn Fest highlights diversity: American Indian students celebrate and share their culture

By By Dale Thompson

By Dale Thompson

This year’s third annual American Indian Autumn Fest received little support from the larger U community.

“We wish we would have had more people attend who aren’t American Indian because that’s really who we do it for…to educate them about ourselves and who we are,” said Tony Shirley, the Inter-Tribal Student Association adviser.

The student association and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society organized the weeklong event, held Oct. 25 through 29, and all interested parties were welcome to attend.

Shirley said the purpose of the event was to provide an “opportunity for the (American Indian) students to be exposed to some of their own culture and traditions as well as (to educate) those who are interested in American-Indian issues.”

The event’s theme was “Within Our Pathways, Lies Our Prayers,” because, as Shirley said, “there (are) a lot of prayers, songs and ceremonies that are tied into our lives.”

The week’s activities began on Tuesday with the showing of a contemporary American Indian film, “Skins.”

On Wednesday, tacos and frybread were sold outside the Union to raise money to send students to North Carolina for AISES’s national conference.

A panel discussion titled “Cultural Undertones of Successful American Indian Women: Embracing and Redefining Traditions” was held Thursday.

Because many tribes are matriarchal and place a high value on the success of females, the association wanted to organize a panel highlighting thriving American-Indian women in the Salt Lake Community, such as Donna Land, the General Manager of KRCL Radio.

A Talking Circle, for people to gather and express themselves without receiving advice or criticism, was held Friday night at the American Indian Resource Center.

When American-Indian students are away from home, Talking Circles “bring (them) back to that ceremonial or traditional connection,” Shirley said.

“The Talking Circle has been around in American-Indian culture for a very long time,” said Delphine Ashley, attendee and president of the Inter-Tribal Student Association. “(People) come together and just talk about what’s on their minds. It’s very therapeutic.”

Shirley said he has plans to organize Talking Circles once a month during the winter and wants to ultimately have separate ones for men and women, as Talking Circles traditionally separate the two.

Saturday featured performances and storytelling at the opening of “A Gesture of Kinship.”

The next major event for the student association is an American Indian Awareness Week, scheduled for the last week of March.

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