Campus News

UK Celebrates Native American Heritage Month 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 2, 2021) — Having celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day this past Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month, and highlighting Indigenous communities at large, the University of Kentucky now shifts to celebrating National Native American and Alaskan Native Heritage Month this November.

Led by the UK Martin Luther King (MLK) Cultural Center and student organizations, the university will kick off the month with its annual Día de los Muertos celebration and vigil tonight, and conclude with an educational social media campaign about the first Thanksgiving gathering later this month.

Christine Capalar, UK MLK Center programming intern, encourages everyone of all walks of life to engage with Native American Heritage Month.

“Whether or not some are aware or acknowledge it, we all have ties to Indigenous cultures and peoples in some capacity, due to our shared history with colonialism,” she said.

Native American Heritage Month began in 1915 with an intentional acknowledgement of the “First Americans.” This acknowledgement highlights the recent and millennial-old history of native communities across the Americas. Today, the month is celebrated under various names, but the intention remains the same: reeducate, rejoice and reclaim.  

“Acknowledgements are only the beginning of supporting the Indigenous communities throughout the continental Americas, the Caribbean and our United States plains,” said Ruth González Jiménez, Latino student community specialist at the MLK Center. “We must be tireless in our own education and challenge our own assumptions of what solidarity and support to these particular communities looks like; we must call our representatives, we must call out our misinformed family members and friends, and have the courage to be wrong, and humbly learn the truth that has been blatantly disregarded.”

Some events featured this Native American Heritage Month at UK include: 

Dia de los Muertos celebration of life vigil, dinner, dance and community gathering. This will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2, at Patterson Hall. The event is sponsored by the Omicron Zeta chapter of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Incorporated, the MLK Center, the Latino Student Union and the Office of Student Organizations and Activities.  Tapas & Topics: Latin American Diaspora Dialogue Series, with the topic focusing on Native American languages, dialects like the Guarani, colonizing languages like Portuguese or Spanish, and syncretic languages like Creole. This event will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, at the MLK Center. Hosted by the Alpha Omicron chapter of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority Incorporated, Latino Student Union and the MLK Center.

Starting Monday, Nov. 22, an educational campaign on social media will kick off on the MLK Center's social media accounts. Follow @UK_MLKCenter for education about Thanksgiving, Indigenous communities in the United States and how to support those communities at large.  

“This, and so many customs and traditions we share are a result of syncretic Native American practices that have transcended the borders of our nation, melding with and into cultures across the world, and bridging us further together as humanity,” said González Jiménez, who is of Indigenous Mexican and Spanish ancestry. “Native Indigenous identity lives and breathes throughout the U.S. and the Americas, and a people who were once almost eradicated, have inspired a planet. Native identity is global, and it is very much American.” 

More information about Native American Heritage Month can be found at https://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/

COVID-19 safety precautions will be taken to ensure all enjoy this month. Face masks are required to attend UK events.

You can follow the MLK Center on Instagram, at @UK_MLKCenter. You may contact the center at mlkc@uky.edu.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.