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A Web Letter from the Office of the Provost - March 2022
Purdue NAECC: Celebrating 15 years of Indigenous Excellence

By Mary Jane Chew

Purdue NAECC: Celebrating 15 years of Indigenous Excellence

When the Purdue Native American Educational and Cultural Center (NAECC) opened in March 2007, it was the first cultural center in the state of Indiana dedicated to supporting Indigenous students.  

A springboard for the creation of the center was a collaboration between Native graduate students and Native and non-Native faculty and staff who collaborated to form the Tecumseh Project, an initiative focused on building partnerships between Purdue University and Native communities as well as Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).

A part of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, the center is located at the corner of Fifth and University streets and houses a conference room, a computer lab, a student lounge and a multi-use room.  But most importantly, according to NAECC Director, Felica Ahasteen-Bryant, the center helps Native students stay in touch with their culture and educates non-Natives to appreciate Indigenous cultures, histories, and traditions.

“We have built a campus community that nurtures learning and success and we created a safe space where our students, faculty, staff, and alumni representing 70 tribal nations can feel at home,” said Ahasteen-Bryant. “But our reach goes far beyond our physical space. Our academic partnerships, such as the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership Program and Native American and Indigenous Studies Minor continue to make a real difference in the lives of our students, alumni and Tribal communities.”

In celebration of its 15th anniversary year, the center hosted a presentation by Joy Harjo (Muscogee Creek Nation), U.S. Poet Laureate earlier this month.

Additional celebratory events this spring include:

  • April 8: “Learn (and Cook) with Us!” Lunch and Learn series, a collaboration with the Civic Engagement and Leadership Development. Cooking demonstration will focus on “Food is Power” three sister recipe, discussion on food sovereignty and modern Indigenous efforts to reclaim and reconnect with cultural foods.
  • April 22: Earth Day presentation by Anishinaabe elder, Wayne Valliere.
  • April 29: Purdue Spring Luau, a collaboration with the NAECC and the Asian American and Asian Cultural Center.
  • May 5: Red Dress Day, an awareness day focused on MMIW (Missing Murdered Indigenous Women).

“We plan to spend this next year celebrating our culture, the positive impact of the center and looking forward to the next 15 years,” said Ahasteen-Bryant.

Fall celebration events will include a NAECC Artist-in-Residence focused on construction of a birch bark canoe and an Indigenous Symposium highlighting Purdue alumni who are making giant leaps in tribal communities.