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Branson Students Lead Native American Heritage Month Events
Olivia Flemming

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month in November and as part of our Heroes/Holidays & Food/Festival Program, Branson students led and hosted events centered around celebrating Indigenous culture.

On November 5, Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz and student leaders hosted a Zoom discussion panel with two scholars of Indigenous Culture: Poka Laenui of Hawaii, who's written extensively about decolonization and liberation and Hawaiian culture, and Kamewanukiw Paula M. Rabideaux of Menominee Nation Turtle Clan, the Culturally Responsive Practice Coordinator for the State of Wisconsin. 

Laenui spoke of the need to distinguish the Hawaiian people as non-Native Americans. In Laenui's view, the Hawaiian people very much reject the concept of Americanism. After all, Hawaii was considered an independent nation in the international community for almost 75 years before Americans invaded the land. 

Kamewanukiw Paula M. Rabideaux of Menominee Nation Turtle Clan spoke about how indigenous culture is often talked about as one story that encapsulates everyone. In her role as a cultural liaison for the state of Wisconsin, Rabideaux seeks to change the narrative around Native culture in school settings to one that celebrates Indigenous stories, experiences, and scholars for their multi-faced, diverse, resilient, and momentous contributions to our society today.

Thank you to Rabideaux and Laenui for spending the morning with us and answering questions from our history, science, language, and arts classes. 

On November 14, Branson hosted a Walk the Land event where community members walked the Branson campus with three local native scholars: Maria Romero of the Purépecha tribe, Lorena Gonzalez, and Lucina Vidauri of the Coastal Miwok. After an introduction by Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz about his dynamic understanding of medicine and knowledge, attendees shared why they wanted to walk the land and what they wanted to learn. 

The group spent the next hour walking and observing the interaction between natural and developed spaces on campus: trees in the quad, water, plants by the creek, the giant trees by the tennis courts and the library, and Prize Day Field. Attendees talked about interesting landmarks, like how the creek has been shaped to fit our buildings and the mysterious lava rock by the dance studio. 

Jack Rende, a student leader involved in organizing the event, shared, "I think the biggest takeaway of the event was how the natural features of our campus (the creek, trees, animals, etc.) cultivate a unique and productive environment for learning and reflection.”

In addition, faculty shared Indigenous recipes for students to try over fall break, including recipes from Turtle Island, a Slow Food collection of recipes of indigenous chefs of Northern America. Slow Food has become a global call to action to return to a more traditional and sustainable relationship with the land, our communities, and our food. It is a call for good, clean, and fair food for all! Read more here.