Native American heritage celebrated

Nisheeka Simmons, Staff Writer

Students and faculty of Francis Marion University (FMU) recently gathered in front of the Smith University Center (UC) to attend the annual Native American Heritage Month program held by the Multicultural Advisory Board (MAB).

The program was held in Nov. in honor of Native American Heritage Month.  The celebration included a Native American speaker and several guest dancers.  Latrina James, freshman pre-nursing student, participated in a friendship dance that the visiting dancers shared with the audience.  James, who is of Native American descent, said that she enjoyed the program and hopes that there will be another program next year.

“I got to learn a little of my heritage,” James said.  “I think they should do it again because others should come out and learn about different heritages.  Even if it is your own [heritage], there is always something you can learn.”

Dr. Will Goins, chief of the Southern Cherokee and Eastern Iroquois tribes of SC, was the guest speaker at this year’s Native American Heritage program.  Goins used a map to show the audience where the tribes of S.C. are located and showed Native American members of the audience where their respective tribes would be located. The dancers who accompanied Goins performed several dances while dressed in the formal wear they use during competitions. One of the male dancers performed a grass dance while dressed in blue, green and white regalia covered in dangling fringe.  Goins explained that when the tribes would move, the chief would send a scout to check out the area.  He said that if the area was good, the tribe would follow the scout and a dance ceremony would be held.

“The scout would go into the dancing area and dance first to flatten the grass,” Goins said.  “The scout would take some of the flattened grass and add it to their belt, which is where the fringe on this regalia comes in.”

Goins provided several visual aids to show examples of traditional Native American dress. One example of clothing shared with the crowd is the “jingle dress” that is worn during a medical dance that women perform.  Goins waved the dress back and forth slightly to show how the ornaments on it “jingle” at the slightest movement. The medical dance was not performed, however, Goins told the story behind the dress to the crowd.  He said that according to legend, a sick man once received instructions while having a vision to adorn a dress with cones made from the metal tops of his old tobacco cans. 

“The spirit in the vision told the sick man to give the dress to his granddaughter and have her dance in it; the man did as told and he was healed of his sickness,” Goins said.

Brittany Anderson, a recent graduate, was a member of MAB. According to Anderson, the organization hosts Native American Heritage events every year during the month of November. Anderson said she thinks that this is the best one that MAB has held so far.

“I think it went excellent because it was very knowledgeable, but also entertaining,” Anderson said. “The scenery really enhanced the program because a lot of authentic Native American events happen outside.”