The sounds of traditional Native American drum beats, flute melodies and historical tales emanated from the Upper Galleries in the Fort Collins Museum, moving a crowd of about 80 CSU and Fort Collins community members to sway in a harmonious celebration at the Native American Awareness Month Community Kick-off Friday night.
Members of the CSU Native American organizations and event sponsors said that the evenings’ celebration allowed native people and Fort Collins community members to come together and share in the beauty and vitality of the Native American culture.
“Native American Awareness Month is a celebration of our culture and an opportunity to share it with others,” said Ty Smith, director of Native American Student Services at CSU. “Through it, we can show that our culture is alive, vibrant and how we are looking to the future.”
CSU’s Native American Student Services, the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, the Fort Collins Museum and other organizations sponsored the event.
The event line-up featured performances by Kevin Locke, a world-renowned Hoop Dancer, traditional Native American storyteller and player of the Northern Plains flute and Ram Nation, the CSU Native American host drum group made up of CSU students of diverse age and tribal backgrounds.
Donning a multicolored, metallic shirt and traditional braids, Locke – fronted by a row of small children crowded on the floor with gaping mouths, and surrounded by other attendees – played his flute and sang intermittently about the origins of various Native American tribes and the histories of the people.
Officials agreed that Locke, who has been a regular performer at the event since its conception about three years ago, is a “tremendous” communicator of the history of the Native American people and his presence and the event was greatly needed.
“Locke is such a talented speaker, musician, artist,” Smith said, explaining that Locke has always been able to connect with children especially. “He is an excellent presenter; everything he says has a message about today’s community – be proud of your culture as far as acknowledging your own culture and being proud of who you are.”
Following Locke, Fort Collins Mayor Doug Hutchinson proclaimed November as Native American Awareness Month to “honor the original people of this land” – in tandem with former U.S. presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton – and encouraged all Fort Collins citizens to participate in the numerous events scheduled throughout the month.
Hutchinson said that the month’s purpose is to provide opportunities of celebration for the native and Fort Collins community members; especially for the 391 Native American currently enrolled at CSU.
Later into the night, attendees crowded in to watch as 10 members of Ram Nation, the CSU Native American drum group established in 2005 that serves the purpose of uniting natives through music, sang and beat Inner-tribal and Round Dance songs.
As the group pound upon the northern style, wild moose hide drum with thin, leather drum sticks, several attendees, prompted by native dancers, joined hands and circled the gallery during the Round Dance to celebrate friendship in accordance with Native American tradition.
Members of the group, which performs at various native gatherings throughout Northern Colorado, said that Ram Nation provides and opportunity to celebrate Native American music and grow friendships in the process.
“Singing songs helps us keep in touch with our culture,” said Delbert Willie, a CSU electrical engineering Ph. D. and original member of Ram Nation.
Adrienne Drolet and her mother Mindy Drolet, both Fort Collins community members, said that they have both been interested in the Native American culture for years and had attended pow wows since Adrienne was a child.
“It was extremely inspiring to watch,” Adrienne Drolet said. “You have to experience this when you can; I don’t think enough people do.”
Katrina Gillette, graduate assistant director of Native American Student Services, recommended that CSU students and faculty attend other events illustrating the cultural and political facets of Native American society offered on campus and throughout Fort Collins in November.
Gillette emphasized the quality of the free events open to the public, which include the following:
“Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto” Movie Showing at the Lory Student Center Theater scheduled on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.
A speech by Roe Bubar titled, “From Fehnquist to Roberts: Can we decolonize the Supreme Court or will there be a more concerted move to end indigenous tribalism in the U.S.?” located in room 220 in the LSC on Tuesday, Nov. 18 from 2 to 3 p.m.
The Duhesa Lounge Exhibition Opening Ceremony, a culmination of the month’s celebration, which will feature the work of Native American artists and is scheduled on Thursday, Nov. 20 from 4 to 6 p.m. The event will be held in the LSC Duhesa Lounge.
Senior Reporter Madeline Novey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org