Students, faculty and state leaders gathered Monday to acknowledge the importance of the proclamation that Gov. Pat McCrory signed last month, declaring November American Indian Heritage Month.
“This is a historic event, and we at Carolina as well as our other sister institutions are pleased to be invited to participate,” said Amy Locklear Hertel, the director of UNC’s American Indian Center.
Jarrod Lowery, the governor’s community outreach liaison and a Lumbee Indian, presented the proclamation in a ceremony on the steps of the Center.
“It’s a very strong proclamation,” Locklear Hertel said. “It goes much further beyond recognizing culture and heritage.”
Locklear Hertel said the governor’s proclamation recognizes the contributions that American Indians have made to North Carolina and rededicates the state to supporting tribal sovereignty.
“This is powerful language for the governor to use, and we stand ready at Carolina to answer this call,” Locklear Hertel said.
Lowery said the proclamation is a way of showing how North Carolina understands that American Indian communities are still here and that they have a unique heritage mandating that they be treated as special entities.
“The state has a bigger ear to native populations across the state,” he said. “The proclamation is to say that they will no longer be overlooked.”
Tracey Ford, assistant vice president for academic and student affairs of the UNC-system General Administration, said the governor’s proclamation is an exciting milestone for the UNC system. She said she would like to see increased recognition of American Indians in the UNC system and in the state.
“More must be done and can be done to increase the presence of American Indians among our students, faculty and staff,” Ford said.
Marty Richardson, a third year graduate student and a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe, performed at the event.
“It is an honor to represent my people and provide music and bring the spirit of our ancestors, our elders and our leaders to this great occasion,” Richardson said.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean said since its creation in 2006, the American Indian Center has become a vital part of the UNC community.
“At Carolina we celebrate, support and promote the inclusion and education of this nation’s first people, not just during American Indian heritage month, but during all months of the year,” he said.
Alfred Bryant, founding director of UNC Pembroke’s new Southeast American Indian Studies program, and Ian Stroud, assistant director of Native American Student Affairs at N.C. State University, also spoke briefly at the event.
Stroud said this month is a good opportunity to reflect and to educate others on American Indian culture in North Carolina.
“That’s 500 years of cultural resiliency,” he said. “Let us continue to be leaders; let’s continue to honor our ancestors who brought us here.”
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