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TCU 360

All TCU. All the time.

TCU 360

TCU celebrates Seventh Annual Native American and Indigenous Peoples Day

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Alicia Takacs
The 4 panelists at the symposium, from left to right: Dr. Benjamin-Alvarado, Annette Anderson, Terri Parton, Chebon Kernall. (Alicia Takacs)

TCU celebrated its Seventh Annual Native American and Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 2.

With multiple events, TCU spread the culture and history of Native American and Indigenous communities.

TCU alumnus Carl Kurtz, a citizen of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, set up a teepee in the Campus Commons to teach students about Potawatomi culture. The display allowed students to experience the culture in a new way.

A teepee set up by TCU alumnus Carl Kurtz was in the Commons to teach students more about native culture. (Alicia Takacs)

In the evening, TCU held the Seventh Annual Native American and Indigenous Peoples Day Symposium in the BLUU Ballroom. Moderated by TCU professor Dr. Wendi Sierra, the symposium featured a panel of TCU community members who spoke on TCU’s relationship with native groups.

The panelists included Dr. Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, TCU’s Chief Inclusion officer and senior advisor to the chancellor, Annette Anderson, Cherokee and Chickasaw heritage on the TCU Native American Advisory Circle, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes President Terri Parton, and Chebon Kernall, a citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and member of TCU’s Native American Advisory Circle.

The symposium began with the Kanehelatúksla, the Oneida Nation’s thanksgiving address. TCU President Daniel Pullin then delivered the opening remarks.

“It’s a great opportunity to both honor and learn from our past,” President Pullin said. “It’s through events like today… that we listen and we learn and we build trust and we strengthen our relationships with one another.”

Dr. Benjamin-Alvarado, who helped launch the Four Directions Scholars Program at TCU to provide support to students who are members of Native American nations, believed it is imperative for TCU to maintain positive relationships with native groups and continue to build the trust that has been lost in the past. He said TCU has made positive moves in relations with native groups but also acknowledged TCU has work to do. 

Anderson feels TCU has built a community that she feels comfortable in.

“It’s nice to be able to see everybody in the audience and wave and know them,” Anderson said. Anderson noted that the Wichita people were removed from this area of Texas, notably the land that TCU was built on.

Wichita and Affiliated Tribes President Terri Parton reminded the audience that not only building relationships with Indigenous communities, but also making sure we keep them, is key to learning native culture.

She also believed TCU sets a great example with its relationship with the native community.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it became difficult for tribes to keep their culture.

“[A ceremony the Wichita tribe would have yearly] had gone on for as long as anybody could remember, and it stopped when the pandemic hit. And then our annual dance, we didn’t dance for four years and… our last dance was in 2019,” Parton said. 

Kernall also applauds TCU’s efforts in building a relationship with native groups but believes more work is needed.

“It’s gonna take an understanding from everyone to walk alongside our indigenous peoples,” Kernall said. 

Along with several other groups, a Cherokee Nation table was set up outside of the symposium to teach members of the TCU community about their culture. (Alicia Takacs/Staff Writer)

Kernall is thankful for the efforts of TCU and their initiation of relationships with native groups, noting that TCU is doing more than many institutions to cultivate a relationship with these groups. Kernall noted that TCU must also pay attention to cultures that are still trying to thrive.

“Don’t be afraid of it because it doesn’t mean ownership,” Kernall said. “It means coming to another understanding of what we used to have of this being our mother and not harming her in which she provides for us.”

TCU is also in the process of creating an employee resource group for Native and Indigenous TCU faculty and staff. TCU is committed to growing the presence of Native American culture on campus and expanding its goals in connecting with the community. 

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