Native American Heritage events celebrate interconnection

Native American man dancing

The Native American Heritage Celebration includes a traditional powwow.  Photo: Timothy Nguyen


“Mitakuye Oyasin,” the Lakota phrase for interconnectedness with all creation, is the theme of UIC’s 22nd annual Native American Heritage Celebration Friday.

The all-day event, free and open to the public, features Native American students and the heritage often overlooked by academia and pop culture.

“The purpose is to celebrate our heritage, to inform and educate students and faculty,” said Jolene Young, president of the Native American Student Organization and a senior in fine arts.

The celebration, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in Student Center East, includes food, workshops and a traditional powwow.

“There’s a misconception that Native Americans are no longer around, but Chicago has a large urban population of Native Americans,” said Jonathon MeDrano, adviser in the Native American Support Program, co-sponsor of the event. “We want to let UIC students, faculty and staff know that we’re here.”

The workshops range from the crafts of beading and drum making to research on issues of sovereignty and misrepresentation in the media and sports.

“The program is geared culturally and scholarly, so there’s something for everybody,” said Medrano.

UIC graduate Anthony Roy will present his work on race-based media stereotypes from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., specifically focusing on the Chicago Blackhawks logo.

“I find it super problematic because it ties into the cultural misrepresentation of the indigenous people as savages,” said Cynthia Teschner, treasurer of the Native American Student Organization and a graduate student in Latin American and Latino studies.

“It has a huge psychological effect on our people,” said Teschner, who is of Lakota, Ojibwe and European ancestry.

“I like the Blackhawks, but their images I’m not too fond of,” said Young, whose father is a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “I don’t want my nieces and nephews to look at that and think, ‘That’s what my heritage and culture is.'”

“Having the heritage celebration helps to eliminate these types of inequalities. It’s giving voice to our people to correctly represent ourselves in a positive way,” Teschner said.

The luncheon speaker, Crystal Lameman, is a Beaver Lake Cree Nation activist who works to restore native treaty rights and stop the expansion of the tar sands. RSVP to

The day ends with a powwow from 5 to 10 p.m. in the Illinois Room, with live music and traditional Indian food for sale. Anyone can participate in the dancing.

“I look for my brothers and sisters of all backgrounds, because we’re all united in humanity,” Teschner said.

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