Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs

Feasting to Honor Community, honoring Alphonse Pitawanakwat and Kayla Gonyon

November 12, 2019

By Hannah Brauer, Photographer/Writer Student Lead


Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) enji-maandowaaniding nasadawendaan manda waakaa’iigan badaksing Nishnaabe dakiimowaang, Nswi Shkoden Nishnaabeg gaa-bigidnamaagowiing biinash mdaaswi nshwaaswaak-shi-mdaaswi-shi-niizhwaaswi Meigis Waakaawiiganing Khci-naakonigewin. Wi dash ezhi-dabaadendamindwaa gii-miigowewaad wi bekish gimaa Tongatini gii-ndawendang ji kinoomaagaazowaad zhiwe ednokiijig, n’wii-kichi-piitendaanaa ekidowaad Nishnaabeg, enaakonigewaad minwaa pane ji ni mnaachigewaad.

My name is Hannah Brauer and I am the Photographer/Writer Student Lead at MESA. I would like to begin this article by acknowledging that I am impacted by the land upon which the University of Michigan stands, which is the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe people: the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Bodewadmi. 

It is important that we remember the founding of the University was made possible through the signing of the Treaty of Fort Meigs in 1817. This treaty has allowed me to be on this land and carry out my role in elevating the voices of the Native American community on campus, and has also given a space for the Native American Students Association (NASA) and MESA to celebrate Native American Heritage Month (NAHM). Miigwech to the Three Fires Nation and to those who helped to make NAHM possible.

The aim of NAHM this year is to develop community ideas of health and wellness by bringing traditional medicines, mental health screenings, healthier foods, and cultural ceremonies directly to students. The planning committee is working with the fire marshal to bring the sacred healing practice of smudging into campus buildings, as a University-wide smudging policy is currently under development. The hope is that this policy will be finalized, approved, and begin to be implemented later this year.

The event itinerary began with an opening feast, Feasting to Honor Community, honoring Alphonse Pitawanakwat and Kayla Gonyon. Alphonse and Kayla have contributed profusely to the maintenance of the Anishinaabemowin language in the AMCULT department, and beyond U-M, Alphonse has contributed to the retention of culture and language in his community.

Following the feast was the lecture Two Spirit Identity: Indigenous Gender & Sexuality by Rebecca Lynn, a Two Spirit artist from the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Harbor Springs, MI. Rebecca is the owner and beader of QueerKwe Designs (@queerkwe on Instagram and QueerKwe Designs on Facebook), which aims to create representation for LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit indigenous folx by combining modern pride flags into her traditional beadwork.

On November 14, a free performance titled Indigenous Healing in Action will highlight Native artistic expression in many forms communicating the healing power of movement, art, and storytelling for this community. This event will feature University of Michigan's own Dr. Bethany Hughes’s work in native performance, Māria Apera-Jones of Wellington, New Zealand, and Sacramento Knoxx of The Aadizookaan. The event aims to highlight how art can have a therapeutic effect on those participating in its creation as well as those experiencing it. Overall, the event will honor the culture of native communities across the world while celebrating these communities’ strength and resilience. 

The final event in this year’s program will be on November 22, in which you can join NASA for a Sioux Chief-inspired lunch at Our Traditions, with American Indian Health and Family Services. This event is in tandem with American Indian Health and Family Services (AIHFS) to learn and discuss native traditions this time of year. AIHFS is a non-profit health center whose mission is to empower and enhance the physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental wellbeing of indigenous communities in Southeast Michigan through culturally grounded health and family services.

Join us for our upcoming events throughout the remainder of November! View a full calendar of events here.