November is Native American Heritage month, during which the Future Stewards program at RIT plans several events to celebrate their heritage and educate other RIT students about their culture. “Thanksgiving is an American holiday,” Jason Younker stated. Younker is the director of the Future Stewards program at RIT and a member of the Coquille tribe. “Giving has always been a cultural tenant of all Native Americans. For others, November is Native American Heritage month, for us, every day is Native American Heritage month.”

The Future Stewards Program at RIT is centered on helping Native American students find their way in both life and in an academic environment. “There are very few Native Americans with Ph.D.’s, and we are just now turning the corner where we will see more,” said Younker. “It’s important to know why education has been discouraged among Native Americans because of the boarding school system… To see more Native American scholars on campus, and even Ph.D.’s and faculty members, that’s something special.”

RIT has a thriving Native American student culture, rising from 32 scholars 7 years ago to around 180 in 2013. “That’s a tremendous jump,” Younker said. “So its finding my path as a Native American scholar. It’s not just me as a faculty member, but it’s also the 180 students that are on campus and some of the obstacles they face when they come here.”

The Future Stewards program is putting on multiple events throughout the month to educate students about Native American culture and to encourage a greater sense of community. On November 5, the president of the Iroquois nation, President Tadodaho, gave a speech at RIT titled: The Words That Come Before All Else.  

Other events include a speech by Younker himself called “Finding my Path” where he talks about his story as a Native American scholar. The event takes place on November 12 from 1 – 2:30 p.m. in room 2610 in the Campus Center.

On November 15 students are encouraged to “Rock your Mocks,” where students will wear their traditional moccasins. There will also be a showing of the documentary “The Medicine Game” on November 19 in the Ingle Auditorium from 12 – 3 p.m. The last event of the month, held on November 21, is a presentation by Alfred Jacques. He will craft a traditional lacrosse stick and explain its meaning along with the history behind the game. The event will be from 1 – 2 p.m. in room 2650 of the Campus Center.

 “When I was growing up, everything around me was Navajo,” said Nicole Scott who is the program director of Future Stewards. “When I went to college I got to experience other peoples’ cultures. I thought it was interesting that we had our own ways of living. Native American Heritage Month is a time to be proud, and I look forward to putting on my moccasins and showing that I’m Native American.”

Be on the lookout for an article on the history of lacrosse coming soon from Reporter!