By Janean Sorrell, Nov. 9, 2021

This month Cal Poly Pomona’s Native American Student Center, or NASC, is hosting a variety of events to honor the colorful and diverse traditions, histories and cultures of Native American people.  With weekly activities such as printmaking, a beading circle and many more there is bound to be an event that will capture every student’s eye.

Over the past century, Native American Heritage Month, or NAHM, has evolved from a single day to a month long celebration in November to honor the cultures and history of the original inhabitants of what is now the U.S. Since the opening of the NASC in 1998, Cal Poly Pomona has hosted a variety of events to honor indigenous people.

“I want the campus community to know and recognize the indigenous people of the land, whose land we are on,” said Madi Garcia, student justice leader at NASC. “The Gabrielino and Tongva, and the native community around us, the caretakers of the land. I think it’s super important, no matter where you’re at in the world to understand – to know whose land you’re standing on.”

Students learn how to weave baskets at the Native American Student Center in 2019, as pictured above. (Photo courtesy of Valerie Montelon)

CPP currently sits on 1438 acres of land, once belonging to the Tongva and Gabrielino peoples. The Tongva – Gabrielino tribe-controlled villages stretching as far north as Malibu and as far south as Newport Beach. Their land went as far east as the San Bernardino Mountains. The tribe lost their land in the 1800s when they were forced to sign a treaty by the U.S. government, giving up their land in exchange for reservations.

The Tongva treaty was one of 18 treaties that were lost over time and never ratified. In 1950, President Dwight Eisenhower created the policy of “assimilation” of native tribes and the Tongva – Gabrielino tribes were effectively terminated.

A poster hangs in the Native American Student Center to acknowledge the land Cal Poly Pomona resides on. (Janean Sorrell | The Poly Post)

According to Ozzie Willis, assistant coordinator for NASC, the Native American community at CPP is small; however, the center is a hub where people can come in and ask questions, whether it’s about getting involved or just stopping by to chat and build community.

“The Native American Student Center is open to everyone. You don’t have to be native if you want to come on through and just hang out,” said Willis. “We’ll have someone here if you want to talk. A lot of people here are friendly. They enjoy people dropping by.”

NASC strives to build community by focusing on the 3 “R’s” that are integral to the native way of being: respect, relations and reciprocity. The center accomplishes this by hosting events such as socials to kick of each semester, movie and games nights, Mario Kart tournaments and offering free food to students to refuel during finals week.

“We want folks to be a part of our community,” expressed Alex Armendariz, NASC interim coordinator. “We’re excited to celebrate and hopefully folks can come and celebrate with us and to feel free to stop by the center. We’re a family here.”

NASC has a number of upcoming events to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

On Nov. 10, noon-2 p.m., earn the art of printmaking. This event is in collaboration with Joel Garcia from Meztli Projects. Attendees will learn how to carve a linoleum block and use it to print on paper. This in-person event will be held in the Rainbow Weaver Conference Room, and space is limited.

On Nov 19, 5-7 p.m., students can create a beading project in the last beading circle of the semester via Zoom and learn about the cultural significance of beading. The first five students to RSVP will receive free beading supplies for the event.

On Nov. 23, 6-7 p.m., students can enjoy Indigenous Creations night via Zoom. During this event, people will showcase their tribal culture by sharing poetry, writing a song, dancing, or showing something that they have already made to share with the community and express why it is significant to them.

On Nov. 30, noon-1:30 p.m., students can stop by University Plaza and tune in to the Native American Success Panel. They can hear from panelists from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, or AISES, and discover how they ended up at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASC hosts monthly talking circles facilitated by Indigenous Circle Wellness. The facilitators ask questions and help guide discussion among the participants. The talking circle is a safe place to be a part of the conversation. This Zoom event is open to all students from any school.

Armendariz hopes that students will want to be a part of their community to learn more about indigenous culture and people. “We’re still here, present. We are part of these communities; we are on campus. We are in your classrooms; we are at events with you. We’re not just part of the past.”

For more information or to register for an event, visit MyBar.

Featured image courtesy of Janean Sorrell.

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