A Look into the World of Native American Heritage and Culture  

By Amanda Joerndt

Native American Heritage Month is celebrated nationally in November. It encourages people to learn about Native American heritage and culture and is celebrated in different ways all over the country.

Youngstown State University welcomed a Native American speaker on Monday to discuss Native American cultural background and diversity with students and to teach them about the different communities that make-up the Native American nations.

Gyasi Ross, author, lawyer and media personality, is from the Blackfeet and Suquamish nation and lives in the Port Madison Indian Reserve near Seattle, Wash.

Ross is the author of two books, “Don’t Know Much About Indians,” and “How To Say I Love You in Indian.”

Photo by J Harvard Feldhouse/The Jambar

While visiting different universities, he shares personal experiences and discusses the historical context bordering the Native American population.

Ross said he tries to be a credible storyteller to get his point across about the Native American culture and communities.

“I like to awaken some consciousness that is already there,” he said. “I think people had a different idea about what a lecture about Native American Heritage Month might be instead of focusing on contemporary things that interface between a lot of different communities.”

Ross said he wants people to expand the Native American Heritage celebration to an everyday practice instead of one month out of the year.

“Stop limiting [the Native American Heritage celebration] to a month and be unafraid to say ‘it is June second, and this is a good time for a native story as any other time,’” he said. “It doesn’t have to be relegated into a specific space bubble that doesn’t infiltrate into the rest of the year.”

Ani Solomon, assistant director of diversity programs, has worked to bring Ross to YSU since the beginning of the semester.

Solomon said celebrating Native American Heritage month is a way for students to become well rounded with different cultures.

“There’s so much going on and we’re all here on this land and not many of us have the native roots,” she said.

Solomon said bringing an authentic piece of Native American heritage to YSU was important when researching ways to celebrate the culture.

“I really thought [the lecture] was important for me to bring someone who is current, relevant and can connect well with the students,” she said. “I hope this is a learning experiences for folks and a chance to reflect on the history of the country we’re all in.”

E’Dazjia Solomon-Green, a junior marketing major, is a chairman for the student diversity council on campus.

Solomon-Green said Ross commenting on the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting during the lecture hit home for her and helped her feel connected to his presentation.

“I’m from Pittsburgh, and I know a lot of people out there. Just hearing him say, ‘what can I do to support,’ that really resonated with me,” she said.  

Solomon-Green said listening to Ross discuss supporting one another’s culture can have a huge impact on people.

“No matter who you are and what diverse group you come from, I think to myself, ‘how can I support you,’” she said. “I just feel like he’s given me a new initiative to try and help somebody else.”

Abigail Lyon, a senior business administration major, attended the lecture to learn more about the diversity within the Native American culture.

Lyon said some specific comments Ross made during his lecture stood out to her and put her viewpoints into a different perspective.

“He stated that all of our brilliances together will one day be beneficial and we can see how we’re all different and work together in society was something that I took with me from his talk,” she said.