Native American Heritage Month Kicks Off

North Dakota State’s celebration of National Native American Heritage Month began Thursday with a ceremonial event.

Jered Pigeon, the program coordinator for the NDSU Office of Multicultural Programs, kicked off the event highlighting the history of NAHM.

He said Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not recognized as a national holiday, but in 2015, Fargo became the first North Dakotan city to officially recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.


Before the ceremony began, Alex DeCoteau, of the Turtle Mountain tribe, provided event attendees with the opportunity to experience smudging.

Smudging, by its most general definition, is “a custom of Native American and other indigenous cultures. For centuries many cultures have used smudging as a way to create a cleansing smoke bath that is used to purify the body, aura, energy, ceremonial/ritual space or any other space and personal articles.”

DeCoteau used a sage smudging method based on Ojibwe smudging practices.

The purpose of using sage in the smudging was to cleanse the mind and to remove negative energy.

Smudging varies greatly between tribes, from the medicine plant used to what the purpose for the smudging is.

DeCoteau also shared with the audience Ojibwe knowledge and songs, some of which have been passed down by elders.

Audience members were also taught things such as how to properly pronounce Minnesota (pronounce –sota more like –shota), to the spiritual meanings behind the songs passed down from generation to generation.

“Heritage Month is an opportunity for Native American cultures to share their knowledge and talents with others,” Jaclynn Davis Wallet, director of the OMP, said. “Over the years, we’ve had strong support from the NDSU community for our events. This year, we are focusing on what’s happening regionally in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. We’ll address a variety of topics that are occurring here.”

Earl Bull Head, a member of the Lakota tribe, said, “Sound, color and motion is who we are as Native people.”

A group of students from the Circle of Nations School in Wahpeton, N.D., actively participated in the ceremony with traditional dance and drumbeats.

Bull Head, who led the drum circle, told the audience of the connection between the heartbeat, and the beating of the drum, and how the two are heavily intertwined.

The students who danced around the drum circle wore traditional Native American regalia, as well as non-traditional pieces.

“I thought the ceremony was very beautiful with the opening, you know, with the smudging and the song, and even with the drum making its debut today, I mean, what a powerful experience,”Anna Sheppard, director of the TRIO McNair Scholars Program, said. “The heartbeat was strong, and she’s just going to continue on to help with those students, and they’re going to be singing and making use of her, so, it’s appreciated.”

Approximately 50 people attended the ceremony at 10:00 a.m. Thursday in the Grandmother Earth’s Gifts of Life Garden.

Looking ahead

There are more events scheduled to occur both on and off NDSU’s campus in November to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

On Monday at 1:00 p.m. in the Memorial Union Plains Room, Dave Archambault II, chairman for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, will present information about the current affairs of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, including what is happening to their land.

A full schedule of the NAHM events can be found on NDSU’s website.

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