Pow Wow: A Place for Celebrating and Learning

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On April 23, Copley Lawn was transformed into a ceremonial site of Native American culture as Georgetown University and the GU Native American Student Council hosted the 5th Annual Pow Wow.

A pow wow is a social gathering of Native Americans from various tribes and First Nations. This year, Georgetown welcomed individuals and families from more than 30 tribes.

Pow wows are considered sacred spaces and follow their own etiquette and traditions. For example, some pow wows will open certain portions of the ceremony, such as roundtable dances to the public for viewing, however, photography is often forbidden to ensure the space and participants, including young children, are respected.

The Georgetown ceremony began with an invocation from Ralph Zotigh, leader of the Zotigh Singers and a respected voice in the D.C. Native community, followed by the Grand Entry.

During the Grand Entry, everyone stands as flags and Eagle Staffs are carried in, usually by veterans, followed by special guests and a procession of dancers signifying the ‘bringing together of the tribes.’ Once everyone was in place; the American flag is placed at the top of the circle and a song is sung for the flags.

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While religion and spirituality varies among tribes, First Nations and individuals, animals have always been part of Creation stories. Zotigh said it is commonly misunderstood that Native Americans worship animals.  This is not so, he explained. Native Americans do not worship animals, but honor and respect their sacred nature, often depicting them as messengers between ancestors and the Creator.

This clarification highlighted the importance of such events like the Georgetown pow wow, where both ceremony and learning can take place and is done by listening to and interacting with Native Americans – an underrepresented identity and history here on campus.

As a pow wow coordinator, my own experience was characterized by an immense appreciation and gratitude of the community formed as our Native American participants, guests, and sponsors, such as Campus Ministry came together to make this significant event and ceremony happen right here at Georgetown.

Written by Becca Yates, C’17.

 

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Reflections from NJSLC 2016: Jesuit Values, words to live by

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Hoyas at NJSLC ’16

Georgetown University is excited to host the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference: Set the World on Fire (NJSLC) July 19 to 23. Leading up to this year’s conference, the Office of Campus Ministry will be sharing reflections from students who attended the NJSLC last year.

In this, the inaugural post of the series, Aaron Bennett, C’19 writes about a “paradigm-shifting revelation.”

In the daily hustle and bustle of student life, it’s easy to miss the blue banners hung around Georgetown’s campus.

I’ll be the first to admit it: my freshman year, I rarely gave those phrases—Men and Women for Others, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, among others—a second glance. Considering the concept of cura personalis took up more mental energy than I could spare; it seemed too vague to actually be able to implement and too complex to actually live by. In such an academically rigorous and involvement-heavy campus culture, I found myself too rushed, too busy and too ambitious.

The 2016 National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference changed all that.

One of the biggest takeaways from the conference, in my mind, is the paradigm-shifting revelation on what it means to live in service to others. A popular perception of service is a large, overt, organized endeavor—projects that are often judged by how many hours were logged or number of people who benefitted. While these are certainly noble and consistent with the Jesuit ideals, discussions at NJSLC turned this notion on its head, revealing to me that we can do good in the world by instead putting people first.

In my mind, this is the most important element of service. Adopting this philosophy allows you to see the impact of your actions on a personal basis and truly improve someone’s life. Taking the time to engage others in dialogue about issues important to them, listen to the stories that define them, or simply just smile and make small talk with a stranger is truly serving others every day and having a powerful impact. The world is one big community—strengthened by our differences and united in humanity—and, as a leader, the more we can do to bring people together every day, the closer toward peace we strive.

For example, I have committed myself to slowing down life on the Hilltop, and setting goals to work towards this new lifestyle. I planned on engaging with someone new every day—and doing it with a smile on my face. Over the course of the conference, I discovered that I wanted to be the kind of person that brings fresh, positive energy into every space I enter. Emphasizing these micro-scale acts of kindness and peace allows me to be of service to anyone at any time and in any way. That, to me, is leadership, and with this attitude and optimism, I truly believe I can take the first concrete step in fighting for a more peaceful world.

With a reinvigorated comprehension of what it means to be leader in the Jesuit tradition, I was excited to return to campus and share this new perspective through conversations and action. I now understand that Jesuit principles are more than just words on a banner; they are a way of living a life dedicated to service for others. Although the world seems to be descending further into chaos with each passing day, NJSLC inspired me to raise my voice and be an agent for peace, one interaction at a time.

Written by Aaron Bennett, C’19.

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Deconstructing Islamophobia and Religious Discrimination: A Domestic Immersion Experience

We visited the Diyanet Center as a part of our trip, which is the site of the largest mosque in the US.

Students visited the Diyanet Center, the site of the largest mosque in the US.

The popular assumption about Islam in America is that it is a predominantly Arab, immigrant identity. However, the experience I gained from my Alternative Break Program (APB), Deconstructing Islamophobia and Religious Discrimination fully dispelled that idea.

Another important lesson I learned from meeting and talking to members of the Muslim community in D.C., is that, although facts and figures are important, an even more powerful tool for fighting Islamophobia is storytelling. Until now, I underestimated the power of stories to convey the nuances and diversity of Islam, and the lasting impact they would have on my heart and mind.

Over the course of the week, my fellow students and I visited mosques, community partners, advocacy organizations, and government officials. I learned that all the Muslims we met that week drew upon their faith in a way that was unique to their identity and experience.  I began to realize that Islam is comprised of people from a wide variety of identities, and that intrafaith conversations can sometimes be even more difficult than interfaith conversations. Like many other religions, Muslims also debate the meanings of scripture and disagree on practices. I realized that in order to understand the ways in which Islamophobia manifests itself, I first needed a stronger personal understanding of the lived experience of Islam.

One of meetings that affected me most was with Congressman Keith Ellison, the representative of Minnesota’s 5th District. Ellison is also the first Muslim member of Congress. He told us that some people were upset by the fact that he took the oath of office with Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Quran. I thought this was incredibly interesting in how it problematizes the all too common idea that being Muslim is somehow opposed to being American. Ellison spoke about how faith plays a role in his work. For him, faith is important but it does not dominate his decisions. Ellison said, that while there is an institutional network that propagates Islamophobia, we as individuals can compel political change by sharing stories and appealing to common values. An example of what Ellison meant by appealing to common values came when we met with the members of Islamic Relief.

Islamic Relief is an organization that does charity and emergency response work. A few years ago, they were an essential part in providing residents of Colorado Springs with the resources they needed when they were displaced by a wildfire. Local Christian organizations were so impressed by their work, they asked Islamic Relief to help train them in disaster relief efforts. Growing up in Colorado, I was immediately struck. I wouldn’t have expected a center of Evangelical Christianity to welcome a Muslim organization so readily, but in moments of need they were able to see how people can – despite and because of their faiths – bridge the gap and help each other.

These moments gave me tremendous hope for the future. We may face tremendous obstacles overcoming Islamophobia in our current political and social climate, but there are people out there tirelessly helping to build bridges. In times of need, we share more in common than we might realize. I have resolved to be an ally that amplifies the multiplicity of Muslim voices and stories who is also willing to engage in hard conversations with people. I am grateful for my ABP experience and that it opened my heart and mind in ways that I did not anticipate.

Written by Bailey Bradford, C’19

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Howard Gray, S.J. Graduation Examen 2017

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“Hello, Graduating Seniors…” Outgoing Vice President of Mission and Ministry, Fr. Howard Gray, S.J. sat down this week to share a short reflection based on the Jesuit Examen with graduating seniors, inviting graduates to express gratitude for the most meaningful experiences of their Georgetown careers.  Fr. Gray shares what inspires gratitude from his own time at Georgetown as he, too, looks ahead to his life beyond the Hilltop.

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ESCAPE: a space for all students to feel included, understood and welcomed

32884888285_2b25c3f6e0_oIn August of last year, when I accepted the position of ESCAPE program director, I was told ESCAPE was unique and this would be the best job I would ever have.

Back then, I might have thought that statement had been infused with a touch of hyperbole. But, now I know it isn’t.

My first year flew by, and today I consider myself blessed to be part of ESCAPE. I have had the opportunity to interact with 368 new students on ESCAPE overnights, work with 45 dedicated student leaders, and share in the insightful, personal stories from 14 faculty and staff members.

Most of all, I am humbled by the students I have met. Students from all walks of life sharing themselves deeply with their fellow Hoyas in order to help others on their own journeys. I am continually surprised by how much fun students have singing songs loudly without a care to how they sound (they always sound amazing).

Recently, while recruiting ESCAPE leaders for next year, I received more than 100 applications from students. I felt a great sense of responsibility. I realized, I have been entrusted with a program that has a 26-year history of helping students connect and find a home at Georgetown.

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ESCAPE lasts for 27 hours and takes place at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center; just one hour away from campus. But, that’s all you need to take a break from the everyday stresses of an academic environment in a bustling city. I am excited to be a part of ESCAPE, continuing to help it grow and ensuring it remains a space for all students to feel included, understood, and welcomed.

I am grateful for my ESCAPE experiences and the gift of having played a part in the giving to others.

Written by Laura Mintel, ESCAPE Program Director.

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