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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Native American Exhibition Has Drums Beating

    An event that took place at the Old Chemistry building on Thursday eveningwas perhaps noticed more for its table of free food and Native American memorabiliathan for its exposition of Native American culture. Never the less, some fiftyto seventy student and faculty members gathered to take part in the ‘IndigenousPeople’#146;s Symposium’ which spanned from 4 to 8pm.

    The event was sponsored in part by the Student Organization Creating IndigenousAwareness (SOCIA), a club on campus that seeks to investigate and present thehistory of the Native American peoples. ‘Most of SOCIA’#146;s members aren’#146;tNative American, including me,’ exclaimed Denise Lam, the club’#146;s president.

    Also pioneering the event was Nichole Prescott, a history graduate student.In its first year, the Symposium sought to commemorate the United Nation ‘Decadeof the Native American People’, she said. Prescott sought a dialogue ofdiversity on campus that she felt was rather non-existent, ‘When most studentshere think of Native Americans, they think of buck skin and high cheek bones.’

    Prescott, a Native American herself, explained that even the type of clothesone native wears can indicate what tribe he or she is a part of. Resultantly,this symposium sought to explain this phenomenon, ‘A 150 year history inwhich we’#146;ve evolved and grown, in which we [Native Americans] are culturallydistinct,’ Prescott emphasized.

    The program for the Symposium included three different speakers with NativeAmerican interests and heritage. They were experts in the fields of anthropology,linguistics and the art of the Native American people, Beverly Neal, Daryl Baldwinand Nadema Agard, respectively.

    Nadema Agard, the last of the three speakers, taught at NYU and dominated thequestion and answer period following the lectures. Her lecture on Native Americanart appeared to telescope the three lectures as a whole.

    Agard spent most of her life on a reservation, after having grown up in whatshe called, ‘ethnic New York City.’ The Native American art she presented,both her own and that of others, demonstrated in a slide-show sought to in herwords, ‘Speak to your subconscious, not your intellect’#133;.much likeguerilla warfare, it doesn’#146;t confront you…this art seduces.’ Agardalso offered further insight into her background and the art itself.

    Agard described her work as coming from the ‘feminine perspective.’In Agard’#146;s tribe, the woman is perceived as of a higher status than theman. A lot of her work focused on concepts of female empowerment, and used metaphorto . Corn, birds, turtles (given to a male Native American upon birth) and waterall represent men in Agard’#146;s artwork. Lizards and air represented womenin her pieces. Agard said she hoped to achieve balance through her work.

    ‘Native American art has spent 500 years crossing borders,’ Agardsaid. ‘It seeks to have us understand we’#146;re all from the same source.’

    Beverly Neal said she hopes that Agard’#146;s art and other Native Americaninvestigations, including her own, will force non-natives to, ‘get pasttolerance and develop respect [for the Native American people].’ Baldwin’#146;smessage was similar, as the linguist felt understanding Native American dialectwas crucial to ‘understanding language.’

    The evening of lectures and food was topped off with a performance by the NativeAmerican drum band ‘Mystic River’. The four-member group performedsix numbers, each as captivating as the one before it. The band’#146;s spokespersonexplained throughout the process that ‘We don’#146;t make sounds, theycome from our drums.’

    Indeed, the drum proved very spiritual to the Native American people, as theband’#146;s musical expression demonstrated.

    The audience members who stayed throughout the Symposium left enthusiasticabout the entire event.

    ‘It was a good experience and offered a different perspective, studentAmber Fales said. ‘I only wish more people knew about it.’

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