San Marcos Residents Share Their Indigenous Experience During NNAHM

SAN MARCOS – A Texas State Student and San Marcos resident Share their indigenous experience as National Native American Heritage Month comes to an end. 

With Native Americans only making up 0.8% of Texas’s population, NNHAM allows indigenous people to share and reconnect with their culture. Nani Pugh,  a Junior at TXST who identifies with multiple cultures, celebrated NNHAM this November. 

In an interview, Pugh described her indigenous roots and how she is linked to her heritage. 

“I believe I am very connected to my native roots more so than my other ethnicities since I am a multi-cultural woman,” Pugh said.  “On my mother’s side I am  Native American from a few tribes, but my main tribe is Yaqui, I am also  Japanese, Chinese, Irish, and Welsh from my father’s side. ” 

Even with knowing her Tribe, Pugh stated she has never met her relatives. 

“I feel connected to my Native Roots. I grew up with Native American bedtime stories given verbally by my grandfather who is the Yaqui Native American tribe,” Pugh said.  I have been raised with the culture, but I have never met my family on the reservation in Arizona.”

Nani Pugh also shared in an interview her struggles with identity as being of mixed heritage. 

“There have been some obstacles like interpersonal identity conflicts when it comes to my mixed heritage. I have found it hard to find “ my people” or somewhere I fit in. I am not one ethnicity but multicultural so I have had to find a way to embrace my differences, respect others for who they are, and love myself for who I am.”

According to Pugh, It is essential for mixed or displaced natives like herself to reconnect and learn about their culture. 

“I feel it is extremely important for displaced Natives to reconnect and learn about their culture,” Pugh said. “For me, I am only at most 25% – 35% Native American. However, since I come from such a rich culture with very few full-blood Natives in my tribe, I believe it is important to be connected to my roots.”

Not only does NNAHM give reconnecting natives an opportunity to indulge in their ancestral roots, but allows others to reminisce on their cultural experience, and enjoy their customs and traditions. 

Member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Nation of North Dakota and Texas state Alumni, Daniel Baker was born on his reservation in 1947. He attended Indian boarding schools to learn English and despite being assimilated, he continues to hold on to his native heritage. 

He shared this when asked about his experiences growing up and attending one of these schools. 

“Because I am of lighter complexion, the other Indian kids would call me white trash in our language so when I wasn’t getting into fights, I was either cleaning because I was on restriction,” Baker said. “ I worked my way through boarding school and the fact was that they were pretty good to us, you know, back home there were wood ticks, head lice because we were roughing it essentially. If you got sick you’d have to find someone to take you off the reservation, while the boarding schools provide us with food and medicine.”

Alongside the stories of his time at boarding school, Baker shared what it was like growing up in poverty on the reservation, which affects more than ⅓ of the native population across the united states. 

“I only had one pair of brown overalls and it was accustomed for my people to still hunt and gather, yeah we would get the government-issued stuff but nothing was ever great quality,” Baker said. “ At one point my family and I lived in one of those old-style tipis, but despite that, it was still important for us on the reservation to provide for the others who couldn’t for themselves.”

Baker then gave his thoughts on what reconnecting natives could do to learn about their tribe and where they come from. 

“You know that’s good, if they can, go to the reservation and I say if they van because there are restrictions and you need a reservation card, but to go back and see what some of your relatives go through and how they live is very important you know,” Baker said. “

If you would like to learn more about NNAHM visit the official website here or if you’re interested in the Wittliff collection click here.

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