November marks Native American Heritage Month and to commemorate this month, a film series is hosted by the Native American and Indigenous Student Organization (NAISO), the colleges of architecture and liberal arts and the Indigenous Studies Working Group.
The events and film series began on November 5 with a screening of the film “More than a Word,” which is the first of three movies that will be screened this month. The events continue on with a cultural explorations field trip to Houston to attend a Powwow in Traders Village and visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Nov. 9. The trip is open to all students who can register to attend.
The events are premised on providing a glimpse into issues that are important to the Native American community and raising visibility for the Native American students on campus, history graduate student Collin Rohrbaugh said.
“[More than a Word] is primarily about representation,” Rohrbaugh said. “It does a good job in highlighting how representation of indigenous people is particularly harmful for children. This goes in depth about the issue with the Washington Redskins football team.”
Health senior Sara Postoak is a citizen of the Chickasaw tribe and webmaster for NAISO. Postoak said the film series is an insight into distinct individuality and common ground between the 550 federally recognized tribes.
“Sometimes there is a misconception when you say Native American, that we are all the same,” Postoak said. “We all have different cultural things about our tribes.”
Postoak said that there are some indigenous tribes like her own, that were once one tribe and therefore can understand one another and the language, but many may have a language barrier.
“There may be some similarities between tribes, but they are actually very different,” Postoak said. “The series is really offering a way to show students at A&M some of the ways the tribes have things in common like problems faced by tribes today, but also about the individual tribes themselves and about Native American history in the United States.”
Associate professor of anthropology Jeff Winking said the film series highlights the plights of an often neglected group of people.
“The issues surrounding the misappropriation of cultural archetypes and stereotypes contributes to ‘sweeping it under the rug,’” Winking said. “It paints an image of indigenous people that is largely a caricature and it is something we have lived with for many ages. Indigenous people are much more diverse, and to treat them as caricatures perpetuates the idea that they are not something that is real and continues to exist.”
The film series is continuing on through Native American Heritage Month, and the next two screenings are Nov. 18 and 19. The screenings are open to the public, and more information and a calendar of events can be found on the NAISO website, as well as their Facebook or Twitter page.