Native American Heritage Month Observed at Ramapo

Photo by Rebecca King

Last Wednesday afternoon, Ramapo College held the Native American Heritage Month Proclamation Reading Ceremony. Hosted by the Office of Equality and Diversity Programs, the ceremony was kicked off under the Arch by proclamation speaker Ivy Payne, the executive secretarial assistant in the Office of Student Affairs. Payne delivered her speech to an intimate crowd.

“During the month of November, our nation celebrates the profound ways that Native American ancestry has shaped the character and culture of our country. Ramapo College of New Jersey is proud to recognize this occasion,” Payne said.

She continued by explaining the significance of the event at Ramapo:

“Native American ancestry and culture play a valuable role at the College and has abundantly enriched our campus community. We acknowledge and promote the rich contributions of our students, faculty and staff of Native American heritage. As we celebrate the traditions of the original descendants of our nation, let us not forget the long chapters of violence, discrimination and depravation they had to endure, and the struggles that continue today,” Payne said.

“We reaffirm our commitment to the education, inclusion and employment of this group, as well as to the larger population outside of the campus,” Payne said, ending her speech by citing the College’s pledge to Native Americans. 

In an interview, Payne spoke about how she felt about Native American history and heritage should not simply be contained to the month of November.

“I feel like [Native Americans] are the history of the United States; it shouldn’t just be one month. But I feel that for a lot of different groups: it just be devoted to one month. I think that all different heritages and ancestries should be taught all along, even in schools, and I don’t think that high schools and elementary schools seem to focus on Indians that are out west, when they have them here, right in their backyard,” Payne said

In attendance was senior Misha Choudhry, who commented on the College’s own association with Native American groups, and how important it is to recognize them.

“I think it’s extremely important to recognize any sort of marginalized group, especially Native Americans, being that the name of our College actually comes from the Ramapough Lunaape tribe. It’s important to commemorate and acknowledge them, and celebrate their heritage,” Choudhry said. “I think especially since there’s a community so close to us, we should really make more of an effort to reach out to them.”

Grace Maute, an Equity and Diversity peer educator with the College, spoke about the change in the way the College celebrates these heritage month events.

“This year, it changed, the way we celebrate heritage month a little bit. Now, we’ve just started these proclamation ceremonies to officially recognize them for the college,” Maute said.

Maute also mentioned other coming events for Native American heritage month.

“We have two film screenings coming up, and the banquet is on Nov. 19, at 5 p.m., in SC-158, and we’ll have members of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation there,” Maute said.