With food and song, campus honors Native American heritage

Gathering to share traditional foods, song and art, the UC Berkeley community honored Native American Heritage Month Wednesday as a way of raising awareness and promoting education about Native American culture, as well as encouraging support of the Native communities and programs in the Bay Area.

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The campus’s Native American Staff Council served up a traditional luncheon — tamales, posole and calabaza were among the savory fare — along with speakers, performances and a Pendleton blanket raffle.

Artist-in-residence Leonard Crow Dog, Jr.,who is ceremonial chief and leader of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate in South Dakota, played a traditional song on the flute and spoke about the seven striking murals he was commissioned to paint, currently on exhibit in the Stephens Hall space that’s home to the Cal NERDS science-diversity program.

One of the murals portrays a brilliant orange phoenix, a creature he likened to the students who study at Berkeley. “You are the phoenix,” he said he tells students. “The more you study, the more you dedicate yourself to the flame. Take that degree and rise up to become what you want to be.”

American Indian Heritage Month, also known as Native American Heritage Month, was designated last November by President Obama; previously the nation marked Native American Awareness Week each year in early October.

To learn more about the Native American Staff Council, visit its website or Facebook page.