Cookeville – Tennessee Tech University and the Office of Multicultural Affairs will host several events featuring special speakers and dancers in November during Native American Heritage Month.

“I have had hundreds of people approach me after doing these events, both speaking engagements and dance performances and say, ‘Gosh, I’m so glad I came. Why is this not done more? I learned so much’,” said Sayota Knight, a Chiricahua Apache who is also an academic support associate in Admissions at Tech. “Because the trajectory of this information will make people do better and be better – I think that’s the root of why these events are so important.”

Both Tuesday, Nov. 1, and Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 11 a.m. a panel of Tech faculty, staff and students will be in the the Roaden University Center to briefly introduce themselves and then open the floor up for questions. Tuesday the event will be held in the Tech Pride Room and Wednesday the event will be held in the Multipurpose Room.

Knight will be one of the speakers, along with Troy Smith, associate professor of history with a specialty in Native American topics; Rick Moles, Cherokee, and advisor in the student success center; and Sabrina Buer, Cherokee, and a PhD candidate in the environmental sciences integrated research program.

Thursday, Nov. 10, multiple indigenous tribes will visit campus to perform a number of dances at 6 p.m. in Memorial Gym on the main quad. One especially unique presentation will be a dance from a group of Cherokees from Oklahoma who will perform a traditional stomp dance that, other than in instances when it is being shown for educational purposes, is only permitted to be done on special ceremonial spots.

Performers will explain the significance of each of the dances performed.

“For indigenous people, we look at these dances as a spiritual connection where each step is a prayer and each motion or movement, even though it is created by the dancer himself, is inspired by Great Spirit,” Knight said. “So, unlike a ballet or hip-hop or a tango, where those dances are very regimented and rehearsed, these dances vary based upon the feel of the drum and the environment and actually what kind of feeling comes over the dancers themselves. Our dances are also more earth-inspired, because that’s where they came from. They come from the earth in a way that allows us to connect better spiritually.”

These types of events have been an annual occurrence on campus for about the last seven years during Native American Heritage Month, which is celebrated in America throughout the month of November. In the past, Smith says it has increased student curiosity about Native American culture and inspired them to take one of several classes he teaches in the history department, such as Cherokee history, American Indian law, tribes of the Great Planes, native religion and introduction to Native American studies.

“Whether you actually are Native American or not, American Indian history and culture is an important part of overall American culture,” Smith said. “Plus, it’s really important to honor those folks – those who have been with us and those who are still with us.”

Admission to all the events is free and open to the public.

Ron Moses is the managing editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal and can be reached via email. Send an email.

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