Myatt Center celebrates beginning of Native American Heritage Month


Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Amber Cholewa.

Destiny Ray speaks to the crowd, West Haven, Nov. 1, 2022.

Tuesday, Nov. 1 marked the beginning of Native American Heritage Month. That afternoon, the Myatt Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, hosted a kick-off event to recognize the start of the month.

At the beginning of the event, Jennifer Thorndike-Gonzales, the assistant director of the Myatt Center, took time to acknowledge the history and effects of colonization on Indigenous communities across the world.

Thorndike-Gonzales said, “During this month, the university wants to honor the people, the cultures and the history of all Native American, Indigenous and aboriginal communities. They are, and always have been, an essential part of the Charger family. As the university continues to expand its efforts to acknowledge the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, access and belonging, we are committed to providing resources, establishing relations with local Indigenous communities and embrace the historical reality of colonization and its devastating effects on the Indigenous people in Connecticut and throughout the world.”

While Thorndike-Gonzales is not of Indigenous descent, she noted the importance of recognizing the painful history of colonization regardless of that fact, and that the impacts of colonization have been felt across the globe.

Angelina Caroli, a senior criminal justice major, also took time to emphasize the importance of showing support for Indigenous people throughout the year, not just during Native American Heritage Month. Caroli has been involved in event planning for Native American Heritage Month in the past, including an event last month for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and said that this year there have been more events and more overall involvement from students at these events.

“We as a university and as a society should not only acknowledge our Indigenous friends and family, but support and embrace them and their identities,” she said. “This Native American Heritage Month, and every other day of the year, show support for Indigenous issues, educate yourself and be an ally for Indigenous peoples.”

Reiterating the importance of recognizing the struggles of Indigenous communities was Destiny Ray, a cybersecurity and networks major and member of the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation.

“This month we will raise awareness of the challenges that Indigenous people face historically and now. The flag that we are going to raise will be for the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to bring awareness,” Ray said.

She noted a 2016 report that found that there were 5,712 instances of missing Indigenous and Alaskan native women and girls, and that the national missing and unidentified persons system only logged 116 of those cases. Ray believes that those numbers have only increased in recent years.

Ray also noted the harmful teaching of history in schools, saying, “The only thing I received in my education was just the whitewash of Thanksgiving and not talking about the bloodshed that happened.”

Ray also said that this is not the only month that people can educate themselves and help where they can on Indigenous issues.

Closing out the event was Ian Shick, the assistant director of LGBTQ+ resources at the Myatt Center, who made a set of announcements. One aspect of the event that wasn’t able to happen was the flag-raising; the relevant flag was not delivered on time, and the flag raising will be rescheduled as a separate event later this month.

The Myatt Center will be sponsoring a museum trip on Nov. 12 as part of their programming for Native American Heritage Month. The trip is meant to be an educational opportunity for students to learn about the Indigenous people of the land we occupy, particularly within Connecticut.

RSVP sign-ups for the museum trip are available on Charger Connection, and the trip is free for students. The Myatt Center will also announce other upcoming events on their instagram page @unewhavenmyatt_mcdi.