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University of North Texas Honors Native American Heritage Month with Educational and Cultural Events

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DENTON, Texas — In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, the University of North Texas (UNT) hosted a series of events designed to educate and inspire. These events, organized by UNT’s Native American Student Association (NASA), celebrated the rich history and contemporary culture of Native American communities.

Native American Heritage Month, officially designated in November 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, aims to focus attention on the traditions, cultures, and achievements of Native American people.

A highlight of the month’s activities at UNT was the introduction of Native American cuisine across the university’s five dining halls. UNT Dining Services, in collaboration with NASA, created unique lunch menus featuring an array of Native foods. Deante’ Moore, NASA president, emphasized the intertribal nature of these menus, designed to represent the culinary diversity of different tribal nations.

This culinary initiative was informed by surveys of NASA students about foods used in their Native communities. Chefs then worked to include these ingredients in the special menus. Additionally, each dining hall was decorated to represent the 574 federally recognized tribal nations in the U.S., providing both an educational and celebratory experience for the UNT community.

Moore, a citizen of the Gila River Indian Community, noted the significance of this initiative, stating, “Food is so tied into our cultures… Having Native food on campus honors us students, as well as Native people in general.”

In addition to the culinary experiences, the UNT CoLab, alongside the College of Merchandising Hospitality and Tourism and the Department of History, hosted an exhibition titled “Collective Wisdom.” This traveling art exhibition, previously displayed in Oklahoma and New Mexico, showcased the work of over 20 contemporary Native artists, featuring unique collaborations between artists.

As part of the exhibition’s opening reception, Joseph Sioui, a Wendat Nation citizen and master’s student in library science, organized a performance by an avant-garde jazz quartet of UNT students. The quartet performed arrangements of Wendat social songs. Sioui highlighted the importance of Native representation in various art mediums and professions.

April Enelly Galvan, a senior BFA student in studio art, contributed a live, improvised painting during the reception, drawing inspiration from the nature themes in the exhibited artwork.

Robert O. Smith, assistant professor of history and NASA faculty co-advisor, emphasized the importance of recognizing Native cultures as vibrant and contemporary, rather than relics of the past. Smith, a Chickasaw Nation citizen, remarked that the exhibition brings “Native life and vision into the future.”

Through these varied initiatives, UNT demonstrated a commitment to honoring and understanding Native American heritage, highlighting its relevance and importance in today’s society.

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