Students celebrate Indigenous Peoples Week with beading workshop

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Nan Blassingame, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, teaches students beading patterns traditional to her tribes during a Indigenous Peoples’ Week celebration on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. Blassingame said she hopes to preserve the dying art by passing it on to future generations.

Photo Credit: Nikayla Belford | Daily Texan Staff

As part of the week-long celebrations of Indigenous Peoples Week at the University, students learned the art of beadwork Tuesday. 

The beading workshop was led by Nan Blassingame of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and hosted by UT’s Native American and Indigenous Collective, a community for students of Native American descent. The workship aims to preserve the art of beading by passing it down to the next generation, Blassingame said.

Students began with a thin thread and then chose multicolored beads to weave patterns creating bracelets, earrings and keychains. While students created their own designs, Blassingame said every tribe traditionally has their own designs and symbols incorporated into their beadwork.

With years of experience in designing beadwork, Blassingame said she taught her son to sew stitching patterns when he was six years old. She now teaches him how to bead to preserve the tradition. 

“It was a dying art, so we just want to pass it down,” Blassingame said.

 

Indigenous Peoples Day was coined as an official holiday by the city of Austin in 2017. The day honors the cultures, history and legacy of indigenous peoples in place of Columbus Day, said Luis Cárcamo-Huechante, director of Native American and Indigenous Studies. 

Cárcamo-Huechante, a descendant of the Mapuche people, said he appreciates the on-campus commemoration of Indigenous Peoples Day for an entire week instead of one day. He said the celebration enables indigenous communities on campus to broaden the dialogue around marginalization and critically reflect on the history of indigenous life and colonization.

“Those of us who are indigenous people have been made invisible by the colonial history of Texas and the United States,” Cárcamo-Huechante said. “I come from that history, so I want to see the University undertake the challenge of repairing those historical issues by embracing indigeneity in these lands.”

NAIC member Melanie Donate said she encourages nonindigenous people to learn about indigenous history and culture because so much of it was erased by colonization. 

“It’s important to recognize what happened to our people because we were already here and are still here,” undeclared freshman Donate said.

Cárcamo-Huechante said the upcoming events will explain the important elements of being indigenous, which include collective life, respectful relationships to the land and appreciation for human and nonhuman life. The week’s schedule is open to all students and will include a discussion on indigenous food practices, Quechua language classes and a two-day Sacred Springs Powwow.