Preserving Tradition

“The only way you can truly understand Native American culture is to go out and live and experience it with Native Americans,” says professor of history Keith R. Burich, PhD.

Burich created the American Indian Center to provide students with the opportunity to learn about Native American history and culture from Native Americans “in their own words and in their own ways.”  Through the Center, students traveled to Crow Fair in Montana, the largest Northern Plains Indian celebration in the U.S., and spent a week living and celebrating with the Crow people. 

Students describe Crow Fair as a spectacular celebration that includes a daily parade of decorated horses, women and children dressed in authentic costumes and men in elaborate headdresses.  The students experienced pow wows with dancing and drumming, enjoyed Native American food, built and lived in teepees, and visited significant historical and archaeological sites.  They even took part in buffalo hunts. 

Perhaps the most significant Native American tradition in which the students participated was the sweat lodge ceremony.  Considered a sacred cleansing, the ceremonial sauna takes place in a domed structure, traditionally covered with buffalo hides and includes song, prayer and meditation. 

Canisius College Video Institute student filmmakers Ashley Fike (COM ’13) and Lauren Mosier (DMA ’13) were among those that traveled with Burich and, based on their first-hand experiences about life on the reservation, created “Where the Crow will be Forever.”  The 30-minute film explores the history of the Crow people, life on the reservation and why the Crow have chosen to stay.

View “Where the Crow will be Forever” here.

The American Indian Center at Canisius College offers a unique opportunity to learn about Native American history and culture from the First Peoples of the Americas in their own ways and their own words.  The Center offers classes, field experiences, and symposia with a special interest in the Iroquois or Haudenausaunee people of New York.  These events are open to the public.  The Center also offers services such as presentations and workshops to local schools and organizations.  Through these programs and activities, the Center seeks to bring native and non-natives together in order to promote greater understanding and overcome the distrust that has divided the two communities for centuries.

The award-winning Canisius College Video Institute provides students with opportunities to put their classroom lessons to work on projects that enrich their learning and benefit the greater community.  Students produce social documentaries and service-oriented videos – all connected by the theme of social justice – to promote discourse on ethical, social and cultural issues relevant to the world today.  The Video Institute is co-directed by Barbara J. Irwin, PhD, professor and chair of communication studies, and Jamie O’Neil, associate professor of digital media arts and director of the Digital Media Arts Program.