Indigenous Peoples’ Heritage Month graphic. Words are \"Indigenous Peoples’ Heritage Month\"

Events at VCU throughout November will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Heritage Month

The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and the nonprofit Native Americans in Higher Education & Mentorship are organizing the events.

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Virginia Commonwealth University will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Heritage Month with a variety of events throughout November.

“We wanted to honor Native Americans and folx Indigenous heritage in the VCU community by showcasing diverse events,” said Myriam Kadeba, Ph.D., director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs in the Division of Student Affairs, which organized the slate of events with the assistance of the nonprofit organization Native Americans in Higher Education & Mentorship and its executive director Doris Tinsley.

“Native American and Indigenous peoples’ experiences are often rendered invisible due to the many systems of oppression at play in our society. It thus remains important to spotlight their experiences and dispel harmful and racist beliefs such as ones that perpetuate the stereotype that Native communities exist in the past,” Kadeba said. “I encourage the entire VCU community to join us throughout the month of November to learn more about narratives of indigeneity and celebrate with our fellow VCU community members.”

The month’s events will include:

Resiliency and Healing
Monday, Nov. 1 at 4 p.m., Virtual

To open Indigenous Peoples' Heritage Month, VCU will welcome the staff of the Native American Nursing Education Center in Rapid City, South Dakota. Beverly Warne, Kathy Labonte and Dr. Valeriah Big Eagle, Ed.D., will be sharing the importance of Indigenous identity and healing amid the conversation surrounding finding Indigenous children and returning them home from Indian boarding schools.

Indigenous Identities: Erasure and Decolonization
Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 4-5 p.m., Virtual

Decolonization is a word tossed around but what does it actually mean? This event will feature a discussion on how to be a respectful ally to Indigenous people. The event will unpack examples of cultural erasure via settler colonialism and Pan-Indigeneity, with a focus on Indigenous Polynesian communities.

Not a Nation of Immigrants: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion

Thursday, Nov. 11 at 6 p.m.. Virtual

Whether in political debates or discussions about immigration around the kitchen table, many Americans, regardless of party affiliation, will say proudly that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants. In her new book, historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz argues that this ideology is harmful and dishonest because it serves to mask and diminish the history of the United States. In this talk, Dunbar-Ortiz will debunk the pervasive and self-congratulatory myth that the United States is proudly founded by and for immigrants, and will urge readers to consider a more complex history of the United States, which also includes genocide, white supremacy, slavery and structural inequality. The event is sponsored by the Humanities Research Center in the College of Humanities and Sciences, and co-sponsored by the Departments of History, English and Sociology, as well as VCU Media, Art and Text Program and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU Visit
Friday, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m., Institute for Contemporary Art, 601 W. Broad St. (Registration required)

The Office of Multicultural Student Affiars is coordinating a visit to the ICA to see “Ile aye, moya, là, ndokh … harmonic conversions … mm,” a solo exhibition by Dineo Seshee Bopape at the ICA that connects the intersections of the Indigenous and African peoples of the Southeast and West and South Africa. The show’s title calls to the elements: earth, wind, fire and water … summoned in various languages from West and Southern Africa, and features new works spanning video, sculpture, installation and animation.

Rock Your Mocs
Sunday, Nov. 14 to Saturday, Nov. 20

Established in 2011, Rock Your Mocs is a worldwide Native American and Indigenous peoples virtual unity event held annually in November. During Rock Your Mocs, people wear their moccasins, take a photo, create a video or story, add the hashtag #ROCKYOURMOCS and upload to their social media.

The Telling
Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m., Virtual

Native Americans in Higher Education & Mentorship will host an inaugural nationwide event, The Telling, which will provide a national venue for Native and Indigenous students to share oral tradition stories and narratives.

Whale Love Songs & Movement
Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 1-2:30 p.m.

Sperm whales are the loudest animals on the planet. They can hear and communicate with one another across thousands of miles of ocean. Facilitated by Lourdez Velasco, this workshop will take attendees on an experimental journey through Velasco’s ancestral waters of the Pacific to Guahan (Guam) and the depths of the Mariana Trench. Attendees will hear electronic whale soundscapes, whale love songs, and be inspired by whale formations, sounds and communication through dance, poetry and movement.

VCU Native Alum Table Talk
Thursday, Nov. 18 at 1-2 p.m.

The Office of Multicultural and Student Affairs will be collaborating with Native Americans in Higher Education & Mentorship to build the first Native and Indigenous Student Advisory Board. This event will be the first of many opportunities to shape the campus and future programs for Native and Indigenous students at VCU. For more information, please email Myriam Kadeba, Ph.D., at

Indigenous Latin American Migration to Virginia
Thursday, Nov. 18 at 4:30-5:30 p.m., Virtual

“Mesoamerica” refers to the region from central Mexico through northern Central America where many of the most influential pre-Columbian cultures (e.g., Aztec, Mayan and Olmec) emerged and whose contributions include the domestication of maize, cacao and many other crops, and the development of writing. Despite decimation from disease and conflict since European arrival, many Mesoamerican cultures endure today and comprise most of the Indigenous populations of Mexico and Guatemala. Political and economic hardships at home have led growing numbers of migrants from these communities to seek a better life in the U.S., including in central Virginia. While no accurate count yet exists, community members estimate that approximately 3,500 Mesoamerican Indigenous people now reside in the Richmond area. This talk will provide an overview of Mesoamerican history and cultures as background for brief portraits of three Indigenous communities reconstituting here: Mixtecs from Guerrero, Mexico; Purépechas from Michoacán, Mexico; and Mayas from various language groups in Guatemala’s highlands. Discussion will explore the opportunities and challenges facing these new neighbors and the impact of migration on language and identity.

Savage Conversations
Thursday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m., Virtual

This event will feature Indigenous literature, humor and history with Choctaw fiction writer, poet, playwright and filmmaker LeAnne Howe. Howe, the Eidson Distinguished Professor at the University of Georgia, connects literature, Indigenous knowledge, Native histories and expressive cultures in her work. Her interests include Native and Indigenous literature, performance studies, film and indigeneity. This event is presented as part of the Humanities Research Center’s Race, Ethnicity and Social Justice Speaker Series and is co-sponsored by the VCU Department of English, VCU Libraries and the VCU Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Unrooting the Unperceived: Understanding and Confronting Anti-Native Sentiments in Latin America
Friday, Nov. 19 at 1-2 p.m., Virtual

In this talk, Edward Anthony Polanco, Ph.D., an assistant professor of history at Virginia Tech, will explore the origins of mestizaje (miscegenation) in Latin America and the implicit and explicit links this concept has with anti-Native sentiments. He will unearth early colonial definitions of mestizo and ladino to understand how Spaniards "created the Indian" and attempted to destroy complex and diverse Native cultures. Polanco will also discuss how these colonial tropes inform contemporary Latin American culture in subtle yet destructive ways. More importantly, he will talk about some of the ways in which Native communities have struggled and fought against stigma and racism and proudly shaped their own images.