Sarah Jackson wants to reconnect with her roots – and they dig deeper than the average American heritage.
While learning about Thanksgiving in grade school, Jackson found out that her great-grandmother was a Cherokee Indian.
“I was always left wondering if [Thanksgiving] was all my ancestors left behind,” Jackson, a junior, said. “The little information given throughout history classes and social studies classes sparked a great interest in me to find out what else American Indians had contributed to American history.”
Though her great-grandmother died before Jackson was born, stories of her Cherokee heritage lived on.
“My mother has told me many stories about how her grandmother kept Native American traditions and cultures alive within the home,” Jackson said. “She used many ancient recipes and told stories of various legends and myths at the dinner table. She was very proud of her heritage and embraced it heavily.”
Jackson founded the Native American Student Association – GW’s first undergraduate student organization focused on Native American culture – earlier this year.
“Last year I looked for a Native American organization at the student organization fair, and I was surprised I could not find one,” said sophomore Yontii Wheeler, who has traces of Native American blood from both her great-grandmother and great-grandfather. “I am glad there is an organization now. Hopefully it will bring Native American students at GW together and make people aware of how many of us there are on campus.”
But the group isn’t just for those with Native American heritage.
“With NASA, we hope to bring students at GW together under one umbrella,” Jackson said. “We want to connect everyone, from those whose heritage lies with the Native Americans in the Caribbean, to those whose heritage lies with the Eskimos in Alaska, and also those who do not have a Native American heritage but have an interest in its culture and history.”
Sophomore Amanda Stubbins does not have a Native American background, but she does have an enthusiasm for its history and ways of life. Her interest was sparked by a Dean’s Seminar she took her freshman year called Language Endangerment and Diversity, which touched upon Native American culture.
To increase awareness of the organization on campus and to draw in more members, NASA plans to host activities and events that showcase Native American culture.
On Nov. 16, the group will host a dreamcatcher-making event, where all the materials needed to catch even the scariest of nightmares will be provided.
“I care about my Native American heritage because I feel as though it is a part of who I am, and I should embrace it equally with my African American and European heritage,” Jackson said.