Cultural student organization celebrates Native American tribes

When the name NASA is heard, space and rockets ships are typically what first comes to mind however, at Eastern, NASA has an entirely different meaning.

NASA stands for the Native American Student Association, which is organized and advised by the staff of the American Indian Studies Program, or AISP.

“It started here, on this campus in the 1980s. What I learned from NASA was it’s a student organization in which any student actually, besides being Native American, can be a part of and get together, socialize and learn about community,” said EWU AISP office manager Kathleen Warren.

Each year, NASA hosts the “Spirit of the Eagle” Powwow on campus. This year the powwow will take place on  May 10 in Reese Court.

According to Warren, a powwow is a gathering and a celebration.

“A powwow is a celebration of our culture. It involves dancing. We always put on a free dinner for everyone,” said Warren.

Warren also mentioned that, in addition to their powwow, members of NASA try to be involved in other clubs and organizations on campus like the Black Student Union, and they try to stay involved in the community, like helping with the Salish school in Spokane.

The Salish School of Spokane is a school for kindergartners through second graders to learn Salish, the native language according to adjunct professor with AISP Kimberly Murphy-Richard.

“The indigenous language in this area is Salish, so it’s the Spokane dialect,” Murphy-Richards said.

Murphy-Richards said the relationship between EWU and the Salish school is in the making.

“The main partnership we have with the Salish school is a lot of students have kids of their own there, or were formers students there. A lot of the people that are running the Salish school either went here, taught here or now their kids go here. We try to support them in any way we can,” Murphy-Richards said.

One way EWU has honored the Salish language is naming the new hall Snyamncut, the Salish word for “gathering place.”

“One of the elders had a dream and essentially dreamt that this was a place to gather and come together, so that why it is named that,“ said Murphy-Richards about collaborating with the elders on choosing a name for the new hall.

President of NASA and EWU sophomore Kelly Watt has also strengthened the bond between EWU and the Salish school by volunteering.

“I was kind of a training to be a mentor to other students to learn Salish,” Watt said.

Watt encourages others to learn Salish and invites everyone to get involved with NASA.

“Most of our tribes are really close-knit, so we try to recreate that feeling,” Watt said.

Warren, who was both a student at EWU and a member of NASA, said that the association is a community within itself.

“You learn about where [other students] are from and their traditions. Overall, it’s like a big family,” Warren said.

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