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Wunk Sheek Celebrates Native November, Welcomes Elder-in-Residence

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Wunk Sheek, a UW-Madison organization that serves indigenous identity members, kicked off Native November Heritage Month with a traditional feast and Elder in Residence welcome Sunday night.

Native November Heritage Month is dedicated to celebrating the diverse culture, history, and contributions of Native people at UW-Madison. Though Native November had already started, the traditional feast was a chance to celebrate their ancestors’ legacy and welcome the new Elder-in-Residence, Mary Louise Defender Wilson. 

Wilson will be visiting the UW campus as the Fall 2019 Elder-in-Residence. This program seeks to enhance the American Indian and Alaskan Native experience for students by hosting a Native elder on campus for educational exchanges. Unfortunately, Wilson could not make it to the event for health-related reasons.

“Even though the Elder-in-Residence couldn’t make it tonight, it’s still a great night to come together and enjoy some good food,” said Michael Williams, co-president of fiscal relations at Wunk Sheek and a member of the Oneida Nation.

The night started with performances from the Madtown Singers, a student-led indigenous drumming and singing group. The group, which Williams is also part of, performed a welcome and an honor song before people were able to get food, provided by indigenous chef Dan Cornelius. The menu included wild rice stuffing, blue corn pudding, turkey, salad and traditional hot chocolate.

“I think all of the events Wunk Sheek does for Native November, and quite honestly all of the events they do as a whole are awesome, culturally relevant, community inclusive and pertinent to the long-standing history we have in this community as well as throughout the state,” said Chris Kilgour, an attendee and Wunk Sheek’s past co-advisor. “Anytime we can come together as a community is awesome.”

There are a few other events coming up this month, including a documentary screening and a comedy show Friday night starring Lakota/Hidatsa comedian and motivational speaker Tonia Jo Hall. 

“We’re super excited to have [Hall] and see her show,” Williams said.

Native November demonstrates Native cultures in a space that often overlooks them, Williams said.

“A lot of people come onto campus thinking Natives don’t exist,” he said. “So having these events just gives an opportunity to learn that Natives are here and our cultures are thriving, and share our cultures with the wider community and make connections to other communities.”