Native American club takes changes with ease

Erin Beck

It’s common to turn over a new leaf with a new year, but the Native American Club is going one step farther. Since the fall, the NAC has been experiencing major changes.

In the past, the NAC has focused on hosting a powwow on campus each year. It has been a long-standing tradition on campus that was first started 22 years ago.

The powwow was held every spring, but this year president Nellie Two Elk says things will be different. The club has decided to transition from a spring to a fall powwow. This is just one of several adjustments that the NAC is currently working through.

“We’ve made a lot of progress moving forward,” said Two Elk. “But there’s still a lot to be done.”

Two Elk said the NAC is readjusting its vision and expanding its activities. In years past the powwow has been the club’s major focus.

Now the NAC is striving toward bigger goals, said NAC Advisor Ron McKinney.

“We’re trying to build up more programming with the goal of retaining native students,” he said. “[It will] ultimately improve the graduation rate and help students become more successful.”

McKinney and Two Elk said moving the powwow to the fall will make it possible to encourage more incoming students to participate. This will leave the rest of the year open for the NAC to focus on building strong club activities.

The NAC kick-started its mission when it obtained a house directly behind the American Indian Education and Cultural Center. They received it from donor Van Fishback, who has been supportive of their program.

Located at 912 Ninth Street, the house has been named the American Indian Tiospaye Lodge.  Tiospaye comes from the Dakota language, meaning “extended family.”

Several plans are in store for the Tiospaye Lodge. A nursery has been set up for the children of young mothers in the NAC. The house also provides room for studying and conducting meetings.

“Eventually we want to have a little coffee shop type of feel — a place for students to come and chill,” said Two Elk. “We can open it up to campus.”

Two Elk also said in the future it might serve as housing for NAC students. Visiting speakers can also stay overnight. Clubs such as the Indigenous Arts Society have already been using it to bead and do quillwork.

The powwow will remain an important part of the NAC, said Two Elk. The Wacipi, meaning dance or celebration, lasts for two days. Different categories of dances, honor songs and drum contests are featured. Some dances are very specific for certain contests, but others allow anyone to participate.

“Our dream would be to have it outdoors, something more traditional,” McKinney said.

The NAC is currently in the preliminary stages of planning where the powwow will be held. The powwow is open to the general public, not just Native American students.

“It’s an SDSU powwow, not a Native American Club powwow,” said Two Elk.

McKinney said that goes for the club as well. Although the main focus is building a stable community for Native American students, that doesn’t create restrictions on becoming a member.

“We want to welcome anyone who wants to be a part,” said McKinney.