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Native American Heritage Month: Q&A with Tama St. Onge BS’23

by Office of Communications,

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, Willamette University asked Native and Indigenous Student Union co-president, Tama St. Onge BS‘23, why the month is meaningful. NISU is a student group that strives to cultivate community among Native and Indigenous students at Willamette. 

Tama St. Onge
Tama St. Onge BS‘23

St. Onge is an exercise and health science major with a minor in Spanish. 

Why is this month meaningful to you? When I was younger, this month meant making hand turkeys, eating mashed potatoes and gravy, and reflecting on what I'm thankful for. In recent years, as I've reconnected with my indigeneity, this month means reflecting on what being indigenous means to me and making efforts to educate myself on my tribe's history. I also value spending time with other people in Siletz. I've been wanting to start studying and practicing Siletz Dee-Ni (my native language), but haven't had a ton of time. There is a Restoration Pow-Wow for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz every year in November, and this is my first year attending which I'm incredibly excited for! 

What can students and the Willamette community do to recognize this month? For the past three years, NISU has created an Indigenous People's Week Resource Hub in October for Indigenous People's Week. It is a collaborative effort between NISU members, and last year, we collaborated with other multicultural groups on campus.

I think people should visit the site to educate themselves on indigenous issues. Although the site is intended for viewing during Indigenous People's Week, the information is applicable all year round and could be viewed at any time.

How do you personally celebrate Native American Heritage Month? I celebrate it by spending time with family and this year, I'm attending the Restoration Pow-Wow for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz. Usually, I use this time to reflect on what I'm grateful for and make good food with my family. This year, my sister hosted a get-together at her house where we ate elk stew, bannock bread, and a vegetable medley of the Three Sisters vegetables (corn, beans, and squash). It's always great spending time with family!

What Native American Heritage month events (or other events) can people attend through the Native and Indigenous Student Union? 

I encourage people to attend Cultural Storytelling Night tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. in Ford 102. This event is not specific to Native American Heritage Month so different students from multiple cultural groups on campus are welcome to attend.

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