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Going Clubbing At Highland

Native American Club Brings Awareness Of Navajo Culture
Red Gunn

Think: what do the following have in common? Learning to solve a Rubik’s cube as fast as you can, baking sweet treats to share with your friends, defeating dragons—and other monsters—in a role play game, watching movies from a certain well-known actor/songwriter/filmmaker, and learning about the unique culture of Highland’s Native American students.
While they seem to be an eclectic mix of things, these are a few of the many interesting clubs Highland has to offer. Any student can start a club, which means there ends up being a large assortment in the types of clubs students can join. And that’s exactly what happened this year at Highland.
One of Highland’s more unique clubs is the Native American club. The club is run by sisters Naomi and Bobbi Smith who are both sophomores at Highland. They are both Navajo and wanted to start their club to bring more awareness to Native Americans.
“The goal of the club is to be able to share our culture and our values and what we believe in,” Bobbi said. “And to be able to show stuff that we make and stuff that you don’t normally see outside of school.”
Most people really only know about the Native Americans of the past because that’s what is taught in history classes. But there are still Native Americans living in Utah—and across the country—today. There are many different tribes and they each have their own rich cultures to share with the world.
In their club, the Smith sisters hope to teach others about the traditions and culture of their own Navajo tribe. They plan to do activities like beading earrings and dreamcatchers and playing string games. These games are played only from the first snowfall in the fall to the first thunderstorm in the spring.
As part of sharing their culture, the sisters also plan to teach members of the club some basic greetings in their native language. Things like good morning, good night, hello, goodbye, and more.
Many of Highland’s clubs were created for the pure enjoyment of the members, but this club has a bigger purpose than just having fun beading and playing games. The sisters created the club to bring about more knowledge and appreciation for Native Americans.
“I personally think it’s important to show a lot of people that [we still exist],” Bobbi said. “When we go out in public and we’re wearing stuff that you don’t normally see, people ask you like, ‘what are you?’, and we say, ‘we’re Native American.’ And then people go, ‘you guys are still here?’”
“That question is actually more common than you think,” Naomi adds. “They usually just say, ‘Oh! You guys are still here, I thought you guys were extinct!’”
The sisters explained that they get this disrespectful comment multiple times every time they go out in their traditional Native American regalia. It was the prevalence of this question that helped the sisters want to start their club. They wanted to make more people aware that they still exist and still celebrate their culture.
Pow wows are another place where they get to do that; they’re gatherings where people come together to dance and do crafts and celebrate their culture. Everyone is invited to watch people dance and to experience a culture that is different from their own.
There are a lot of things that stand out to Naomi and Bobbi as things they love about being Native American. One of which is the food. Each tribe has their own traditional foods; for Navajos it’s a special kind of cake called Navajo cake, but there’s many other foods that lots of tribes share.
“There’s this thing that all Native Americans eat all the time, it’s called a piccadilly. It’s pickles and shaved ice and syrups and Kool-Aid and stuff like that,” Bobbi said. “That’s one I’d like people to try, even if you don’t get the pickles or whatever. But it’s a really good staple.”
“Everyone knows fry bread, too, I’m pretty sure. It’s a common food everyone likes, and food is a common denominator among everyone,” Naomi said.
Another thing they love about their culture is a tradition they have called the snow bath that happens during the first snowfall of the season.
“We go outside with shorts and a tank top and kind of roll in the snow, it’s supposed to give us a blessing,” Bobbi said. “It’s always so fun to do, it’s really cold and you want to do it fast in then go and get out.”
It’s these fun traditions and food that the Native American club wants to share with those in the club—along with the dancing and the games and the art and the history. The Native American club is open to anyone, no matter their culture. The club is held Wednesdays after school in D104.
“[The club] brings awareness to the student body that there are Native Americans and that enriches and brings diversity to the school,” Sylvia Platero, the advisor for the Native American club and a Navajo woman herself, said. “We have such a rich culture, so why not share it with those that want to learn about the richness of our culture.”

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