Nov 012005
Authors: Joanna Thomas

The pulsating sounds of a drum reverberated off the walls of the Duhesa Lounge Tuesday as Native American Student Services (NASS) kicked off the opening events of Native American Awareness Month.

The Ram Nation Drum Group performed six drum songs outside the NASS office, followed by an open house in the office.

The event marked the beginning of events held in recognition of Native American Awareness Month, which takes place in November.

Delbert Willie , graduate electrical engineering student, founded the Ram Nation Drum Group about seven months ago. The group consists of five to eight members of faculty, community members, undergraduate and graduate students and has performed at several events including the Diversity Conference, Centertainment, leadership retreats and for the Boy Scouts.

Before beginning, the group burned sweet grass to bless and cleanse each member. Ty Smith, director of NASS, then presented tobacco to the drum as an offering and blessing.

Willie said it is important to cleanse themselves and bless the drum in order to stay connected with Native traditions and practices.

All members of the group said their performances help people gain a better understanding of who Native Americans are and what they do today.

"The drum is just a way of unifying us together and sharing our lives and our background," Willie said.

Aaron Benally, dean of engineering and member of the Ram Nation Drum Group, said Native Americans are such a small minority of people on campus and many students overlook them completely. Another member, Eric Helm, senior sociology student agreed.

"A lot of (Native Americans) are invisible to people. Not a lot of people see us as Native Americans, they would have seen us as another minority," Helm said.

Smith said November is nationally acknowledged as Native American Awareness Month and events held locally are designed to increase people's understanding of Native Americans.

"It's our opportunity to increase awareness and educate the campus about Native American culture and issues they face," Smith said.

Some of those issues include the use of Native Americans as mascots, Native Hawaiian Sovereignty and issues concerning Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender. All of these issues will be discussed at events throughout the month.

"(Native Americans) are not the stereotypes. We all live lives. We work; we study; we're trying to have fun and get through life like everyone else," Benally said.

 Posted by at 6:00 pm

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