First Nations Club highlighting Native American culture

Photograph by Amy Leong

The First Nations club on campus has hosted storytellers and even a tepee building project in front of the library, and on Tuesday, May 22, they hosted an all-day event consisting of storytellers, activists and film.

The day went from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00p.m. It was held in N201, right next to the computer lab, and all day students and faculty filtered in and out. Some teachers required their classes to attend parts of it.

It began with a presentation from Debra White Plume, an activist who writes, speaks and performs to illustrate her cause—the long-term exploitation of native people and natural resources. White Plume is dedicated to preserving the culture and way of life of her tribe, the Lakota Native Americans.

She cares deeply about the hardships facing Native people everywhere with regards to treaty rights and even basic human rights, like the current problem of drinkable water facing her tribe right now.

At 10:00 a.m., Roger Fernandes of the Lower Elwha Klallum tribe came to share stories and art. He told two stories during his nearly hour and a half presentation: The Boy Who Became a Bear, and The Ant and the Bear.

His main point was to illustrate the larger purpose and importance of these time-honored tales – their message was metaphorical, about things like transformation or enlightenment, and can be used to help people achieve a greater understanding of themselves and the world they live in. “Storytelling is one of the most powerful means of communicating, and we don’t do it that much anymore,” said Fernandes.

Fernandes showed the audience how these stories could apply to everyone’s life by describing the metaphors of each tale. The first one, for example, was about transformation – a boy who turned into a bear. “By going to school, you’re trying to transform your life,” Fernandes explained. He told the audience how the story could be an inspirational one to students about overcoming barriers and succeeding. However, the stories can mean different things to different people, and Fernandes tells stories in schools, to small children, even in drug and alcohol centers.

After Fernandes’ presentation concluded, a film by Eloise Cobell’s was supposed to be shown, but as the editing wasn’t complete yet, a video on persecution, the  American Holocaust, which compares the holocaust of Native Americans to the Jewish Holocaust, was shown instead.

The grand finale of the event was the “END:CIV” film featured in last week’s Watchdog – a film about the holocaust against Native people during the early years of British colonialism. This film shows a different perspective than what we see in Pocohontas – it’s a realistic view of the extreme exploitation the Native people faced.

The event must have been a success, since people came and went all day, listening to the speakers, seeing the film and learning. After all, the overall purpose was to educate the school about the Native people – their culture, their history and the current issues they face today.