Virtual Native American Heritage Month celebrations designed to build community

Activist and writer Megan Red Shirt-Shaw is the virtual keynote speaker for this year’s Native American Heritage Month festivities, hosted by CSU’s Native American Cultural Center.

Colorado State University’s Native American Cultural Center is hosting a range of virtual activities in November to celebrate Native American ancestry and traditions and build community.

This year’s Native American Heritage Month includes a keynote presentation by activist and writer Megan Red Shirt-Shaw on Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. Red Shirt-Shaw is an advocate for Indigenous rights issues and a champion for greater Native presence in media and higher education.

In addition to the keynote, Native American Heritage Month at CSU will feature talks by CSU faculty as well as community-building activities such as bingo and a session on mindfulness.

This year also marks the five-year anniversary of the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd being reintroduced to Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space. To commemorate the occasion, the Native American Cultural Center is co-hosting several virtual talks and sessions on the weekend of Nov. 7-8 with Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd organizers.

While this year’s festivities look different due to COVID-19, organizers said the events are highly impactful, adding that the keynote and faculty discussions will be recorded for those who cannot attend.

“We are excited to celebrate Native American Heritage Month,” NACC Director Ty Smith said. “It is not only being celebrated here but across the country. Even though COVID precautions have limited what we can do, it has not prevented us from celebrating. I hope you all join with us.”

Building community

This year would have marked the 38th year of the AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) Pow Wow. However, it has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to NACC Assistant Director Tiffani Kelly.

“We knew it wasn’t worth the risk,” Kelly said. “Our elders, youth and community are more important than this event. Fingers crossed maybe springtime (for the pow wow), but we’ll see.”

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Kelly added having cultural centers such as the Native American Cultural Center available for students during COVID-19 has been vital. For Indigenous peoples, she said relationships are essential, whether in ceremony settings or everyday environments.

While partially online, the Native American Cultural Center still has a presence on campus and is open a few days a week. Kelly said she meets weekly with the center’s peer mentors, which she said is uplifting.

“Our offices exist to provide resources for students,” Kelly said. “But a huge part of what we do focuses on that community aspect — being in community with each other. Not being able to be together in person has been tough. So trying to duplicate that virtually is really hard, but absolutely critical.”

Kelly said the Native American Cultural Center has been working hard to build that community online through events such as Native American Heritage Month. She said she hopes this year’s virtual festivities can also help the entire CSU campus learn and experience Native American culture.

“Even though we’ll be online, hopefully it will be refreshing and rejuvenating to be together because the topics are so rich, interesting and unique,” Kelly said. “You’ll learn something. Hopefully you laugh a little bit. And hey, you’ll be on Zoom, so you can sit on your couch and eat while participating.”

Native American Heritage Month virtual events

Thursday, Nov. 5:
NACC Bingo Night hosted by Women’s Circle and the Peer Mentors

Time: 4:30-6 p.m.
Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 986 3419 1705

Join the students from the Native Women’s Circle and the North Star Peer Mentors for a night of Bingo, music and community building. Drop in at any time and all are welcome.


Women’s Circle and Peer Mentoring are programs designed by the Native American Cultural Center to enhance community building, outreach, and mentorship for Native American and Indigenous students at CSU.

Saturday, Nov. 7, to Sunday, Nov. 8:
Bison Days: Fifth Anniversary of Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd

  • Opening Ceremony (virtual via Facebook): Saturday, Nov. 7, from noon to 1 p.m.
  • Open House at Soapstone Natural Area: Sunday, Nov. 8, from 10 a.m. to noon
  • Educational Panel Discussions (virtual via Zoom): Sunday, Nov. 8, from 6-7:30 p.m.

On Nov. 1, 2015, a small group of American Bison was reintroduced to Colorado at the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. Today, the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd has grown to over 100.

To celebrate the success on the weekend of National Bison Day, take part in a range of virtual activities. Learn more about the herd and the communities involved in protecting the bison. A full schedule of events is available at

Tuesday, Nov. 10:
Native American/Indigenous Studies Scholars: A colloquium featuring CSU Faculty Scholars

Time: 4-5:30 p.m. MST
Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 974 1384 8433

Meet Native and Indigenous scholars and faculty at CSU who are making an impact through research and scholarly work on Native American and Indigenous communities.

The virtual session features presentations on research topics, along with a Q&A. The session includes:

  • “#LandBack Means All of Us: Restoring Indigenous Land Relationships” — Lindsey Schneider (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), Ph.D.
  • “Supporting Indigenous Data Stewards: Indigenous Governance and Ethics in Science Research” – Dominique David-Chavez (Arawak Taíno), Ph.D.; Brianne Lauro (Visayan and Kama’aina), and Serena Natonabah (Diné)
  • “Indigenous Water and Land Justice” – Autumn Bernhardt (mixed-race Lakota), J.D.

Thursday, Nov. 12:
Native Wellness Hour hosted by Stephanie Mora-DeRosby

Time: 3-4 p.m. MST
Zoom link:

Learn more about the power of “Mindful Art” as part of this special session of Native Wellness Hour, a regular event from the Native American Cultural Center.

The program is a joint effort between the Native American Cultural Center and the CSU Counseling Center to provide a new virtual program for students. This session is hosted by NACC liaison Stephanie Mora-DeRosby, who is the senior staff counselor at the CSU Health Network.

“Mindful Art” is free, and registration is not required.

Thursday, Nov. 12:
Keynote Speaker: Megan Red Shirt-Shaw

Time: 5:30-7 p.m. MST
Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 928 8849 8392

Join activist and writer Megan Red Shirt-Shaw (Oglala Lakota) for an important session on Indigenous rights issues and more.

Red Shirt-Shaw, a higher education professional and graduate from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, has been featured in the Huffington Post, ThinkProgress, Racialicious, Model View Culture, and Last Real Indians.

Red Shirt-Shaw, who has presented at colleges and universities as well as conferences nationwide, believes in empowering young people to use their voices for the issues they care about in their communities.