SKINS aim to raise awareness of Native American culture

Jaime Lopes of Gibbon, left, is blindfolded and led on The Trail of Tears Walk by Daniel Alarcon of Schuyler. The event was part of Native American Heritage Month activities hosted this month by the Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations organization at UNK. (Photo by Adrianna Tarin/UNK News)
Jaime Lopes of Gibbon, left, is blindfolded and led on The Trail of Tears Walk by Daniel Alarcon of Schuyler. The event was part of Native American Heritage Month activities hosted this month by the Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations organization at UNK. (Photo by Adrianna Tarin/UNK News)

By ADRIANNA TARIN
UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations (SKINS) members at UNK are bringing Native American cultural awareness to Kearney and campus residents.

Already this month, members of SKINS hosted The Trail of Tears Walk and The Truth About Thanksgiving as part of their annual celebration aimed at teaching University of Nebraska at Kearney students, faculty, staff and Kearney residents about Native American culture.

The series of events ends with the Native American Heritage Month Closing Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Monday (December 2) in the Nebraskan Student Union’s Ponderosa Room.

The ceremony is free and open to the public and features a performance by Dallas Chief Eagle II, a recognized master of the Lakota hoop dance. Chief Eagle is a member of the Rosebud Lakota Nation and K-12 art teacher with a master’s degree in guidance counseling and personnel services. He worked as an artist-in-residence and mentor to other dancers through his Hoop Dance Society on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

DALLAS CHIEF EAGLE II
DALLAS CHIEF EAGLE II

“We met Chief Eagle when we went to Pine Ridge this summer,” said SKINS President Andy Becerra. “We stayed with his family and got to participate in sacred rituals such as the sweat lodge and Sundance. We learned a lot and it was an eye-opening experience.”

Four members of SKINS and two advisers — Juan Guzman, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Monica Mueller, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs — went on the trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with a group of graduate students led by psychology professor David Hof.

Because of the group’s work to bring awareness of Native American culture to the community, SKINS won the Office of Multicultural Affairs Student Organization of the Year for 2012-13. The group continued its community and campus presence with The Trail of Tears Walk and The Truth About Thanksgiving events.

“At The Truth About Thanksgiving we get a guest speaker to facilitate discussion about how we learn about Thanksgiving versus what actually happened in history,” Becerra said. “We’ve come to realize that it wasn’t just a nice dinner between Native Americans and the pilgrims.”

The Trail of Tears Walk took place at Cottonmill Park, where SKINS members re-enacted and retold the strife Native Americans went through on the Trail of Tears more than 170 years ago. Native American Heritage Month also included The Native Games, where student teams competed in a month-long series of challenges.

Becerra recently learned how SKINS started at UNK and the significance behind what its members strive to do.

“A Native American girl was attending UNK after many people in her life told her she would never even make it to college,” Becerra said. “Before she graduated, she started the group. Many of us relate to her story because many of us come from different, yet similar backgrounds. So we’ve tried to keep her dreams alive.”

Native American Heritage Month Closing Ceremony
Time, Date: 6:30 p.m., Dec. 2
Place: UNK Nebraskan Student Union, Ponderosa Room
Performance: Dallas Chief Eagle II, master of the Lakota hoop dance.
Sponsors: Office of Multicultural Affairs, Division of Student Affairs, Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations

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Source: Andy Becerra, 308.865.8127, becerraa2@lopers.unk.edu
Writer: Adrianna Tarin, 308.865.8454, tarinay@lopers.unk.edu

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