Native American Student Association Holds Flag Ceremony for Cultural Awareness

The Native American Student Association held a ceremony introducing and commemorating the flags of five native tribes that will be displayed at Southern Utah University: the San Carlos Apache, the Navajo Nation, the Paiute, the Oglala Lakota Sioux, and the Hopi.  This event took place in the Sharwan Smith Student Center Living Room on Wednesday.

Former NASA President Tylor Garcia and current NASA President Mahala Sutherland introduced the event and the flags. They thanked the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and SUU President Scott L Wyatt and his team for their involvement in making the induction of the flags to SUU possible.

Next, President Wyatt spoke about the flags and the students that they represent.

“I think this is a day that should have happened a long, long, long time ago,” President Wyatt said. “We’re so excited to have on display these flags of the different nations of the Native Americans who lived on this land before we came and continue to live and will be here for as long as we’re here and maybe longer.”

Several guests including Student Body President Nouman Kante and Paiute tribe member Xavier Garcia, spoke about the positive impact that cultural representation makes on the university. They also thanked President Wyatt and SUU staff for pushing for inclusivity.

The five flags were then brought in by NASA members in a ceremonial dance while singing and drumming. The audience was asked to stand as several NASA members performed a series of traditional dances from their tribes.

The first performance was the chicken dance, which is based on a story in which warriors discovered prairie chickens during their mating rituals, who looked like they were dancing. The warriors brought back the dance to their people.

Following this, Sutherland performed the healing dance while wearing a jingle dress — a dress with pieces of metal on it that make jingling sounds as the dancer moves around. This dance is based on a story in which a medicine man dreamt of women performing a dancing ritual in dresses to heal a sick person in the middle of their dance circle. The medicine man then described the dream to his wife, and they created the dress and the dance based off of it.

The next two performances were different forms of the chicken dance and the healing dance, performed by the same dancers.

“We are fighting to build a better world here today,” Garcia said, speaking of the importance of unity in different cultures to conclude the event.

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Story: Sasha Johnson
Photos courtesy of Sasha Johnson and NASA