Flag-raising at Grant honors Native Americans11/14/2018
Students at Grant High School were invited to attend a flag-raising ceremony during lunch Thursday to recognize Native American Heritage Month, and school officials weren’t sure how many students would go outside on a chilly day. What they saw was a huge throng of students filing through the front door at the Marshall campus (Grant’s temporary home) to watch.
“I was really surprised,” said Toli Tate, president of Grant’s Native American Student Union (NASU). “It was really nice.”
The ceremony included members of the Northwest Indian Veterans Association, who brought the NASU flag and blessed it before it was raised along with the U.S. and Oregon flags. A drummer provided powerful music and vocals.
The event was another step forward for Grant’s NASU, which started two years ago and is closely connected to the school’s Student Equity Club. Grant has other, longer-running clubs for students of color (also called affinity clubs), including the Black Student Union, the Asian/Pacific Islander Alliance, the Arab/Middle Eastern Student Union, MEChA (for Latinx students) and the Jewish Student Union. NASU fills a need for Tate and other Native American students.
“It's important because at Grant, there are a lot of minority groups that are underrepresented in curriculum, and we didn't have NASU prior to this,” said Tate, a senior whose family is part of the Navajo tribe. “It's really good for me to know that when I walk through the hall, I have other people that I know have similar backgrounds and families as I do. It's a nice community to have.”
NASU meets for lunch on Tuesdays, with a group of about 20 regulars and more attendees some weeks. In November, the group’s events will include a speech by Chauncey Peltier, an activist and son of famed activist Leonard Peltier, and participating in Rock Your Mocs, a worldwide event scheduled for Nov. 12-17 in which indigenous people wear moccasins in a show of solidarity and individual expression.
“What the Native American Student Union has done is brought visibility to Native American students at Grant,” Grant principal Carol Campbell said. “It's students identifying and belonging to something where they hadn't before.”
The flag raising ceremony was part of Grant’s Race Forward program, a collaboration between students and staff that seeks to normalize conversations about race.
“This ceremony is important to kick off the year and to get the word out,” Tate said. It also is “a tribute to people that live in this area that are Native and people that originally did live here and their tribes -- kind of like reclaiming the land,” Tate said.