SIU celebrates Native American Heritage Month to address myths and modern struggles

November 17, 2022

SIU has decided to acknowledge and celebrate Native American Heritage Month in November with various events held throughout the month to help educate the community.

Programs sponsoring the events include the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Student Multicultural Resource Center, and the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

An administrative aide from  SIU’s School of Medicine, Krista English, who’s a member of the Assiniboine tribe, said this month is to inform the public about indigenous people’s culture and customs to this day.


“I think a lot of people have this almost caricature of who Native people are in their mind just based on, like, the old Hollywood,” English said. “So for me, Native American Heritage Month is just shining light on who indigenous people are, what their contributions are.”

English said Student Multicultural Resource Center director Renada Greer reached out to her for an advisory role on the planning committee for events.

“I will advise, like, how we can steer that in a, you know, a more inclusive or a more respectful way,” English said. “Just kind of being, just like, the lived experience part of that because there’s not a lot of indigenous people here on campus or in this area in general.”

English is hosting her own event, which is a lunch and learn on Nov. 16 from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Old Main Room of the Student Center. It will focus on missing and murdered indigenous women.

“Specifically, and the rate for which they’re being murdered and going missing. I share some statistics and personal stories,” English said. “Just some information on what’s being done. Why this is happening in the first place and how it can be fixed.”

Native American studies advisor Dr. Gray Whaley has been involved off and on with planning events this month since he arrived in the early 2000s.

“We’ve had a lot of guests who are artists, filmmakers, poets, from Navajo Nation, a historian from Washington State,” Whaley said. “If you look at my 16 years here, quite a number of different tribes and different regions of the country and having guests here.”


Whaley was a professor who reached out to the school to see what they were planning for the month.

“[Diversity Chancellor] Dr. [Paul] Frazier was very open to pulling something together and he kind of, you know, he said, he had mentioned a staff member. I assumed he meant Krista,” Whaley said, “I told him that I would reach out to faculty…and so I got lucky my first contact I reached out to Dr. Wagner over in the center for archaeological…investigations.”

Director of the Center for Archaeological Investigations Mark Wagner helped the school find a guest speaker.

“I recommended that they contact a member of the Cherokee Nation named Troy Wayne Poteete and he is a Supreme Court justice for the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma,” Wagner said. “He’s also the executive director of the Cherokee Trail of Tears Association.”

The event has been postponed with Poteete currently having COVID-19.

Wagner said Poteete is very knowledgeable and wanted him to come to speak to show Native Americans live amongst society in the modern world.

“I think a lot of people have an idea that Native Americans don’t really exist as modern, modern people, or they still tend to think of them as very traditional people,” Wagner said. “Whereas, in fact, they’re all members of the modern world and Troy is a very good representative in that way.”

Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jamilahlewis. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

Tags: SIU, Native American Heritage Month, School of Medicine, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Trial of Tears Association, COVID-19


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