Norris Mini Courses will teach American Indian culture and language this fall

Yvonne Kim, Assistant Campus Editor

With three new culture and language courses to be offered this fall, Norris University Center’s Mini Courses office is taking steps to expand American Indian programming on campus.

The courses are Ojibwe and Cree Sweet Grass Basket Making, Native Beading and Beginning Cherokee. The language course will also provide cultural background, with “philosophical thought … interwoven into the lessons to provide students with a context for formulating thoughts and ideas in Cherokee,” according to the Mini Courses office.

“Native culture’s been present in North America for millennia,” said Anna O’Donnell, Mini Courses student supervisor. “It’s an important part of North American history as a whole that we should learn about. We spend so much time learning about American history – we should learn before that too.”

Ninah Divine (Weinberg ’16), coordinator of the newly created Native American and Indigenous Peoples Steering Group, which is dedicated to fostering interest in and understanding of Native topics on campus, headed efforts to bring courses focused on American Indian culture to Norris. The group wanted to expand the programming beyond simply academic events and speaker series, Divine said.

“I wanted to have an event that wasn’t just for the Northwestern community, but for the Native community,” said Divine, who was involved with the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance as an undergraduate. “I thought something that was less academic (and) more craft-like, that really featured some of the Native community of Chicago … would be a nice change of pace.”

All the instructors are involved with Chicago’s American Indian community: Linda White is an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Patrick Rochford has previously been involved with the Cherokee Heritage Center.

Norris program coordinator Nancy Cambron Perez said these courses are a way to branch out to a new student population that might not have been previously involved with Mini Courses.

“We’re always interested in just diversifying anything that we have to offer in mini courses,” Cambron Perez said. “When Ninah came to us with this idea, we were excited because it was something new and different that we hadn’t really done before.”

Cambron Perez added that Mini Courses offer a “smaller, more individual-based teaching” environment, allowing students to learn simply for fun and interact with staff, faculty and community members in new ways.

Though NAISA was solely responsible for American Indian representation at NU when she first joined the organization, Divine said she has seen improvement in recent years through initiatives such as One Book One Northwestern and increased Multicultural Student Affairs programming.

“I think it’s really cool … that we’ve been able to incorporate Native practices and programs,” Divine said. “It’s gonna be great that they’re open to the public, that Northwestern students or anyone else can take them.”

The courses will begin in October and last six weeks each. Registration is currently open through the Norris Box Office both online and in person.

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