San Juan College to host Native American Heritage Month events

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Ty Sherman prepares an order for a customer Monday during a stew and fry bread sale at San Juan College Native American Center in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — San Juan College student Shane Sligar was enjoying a bowl of steamed corn stew while sitting in the college's Student Sun Lounge on Monday.

"To me, that's soul food. When I eat it, it makes me feel better," he said.

Sligar purchased the food during a stew and frybread sale by the college's All Nations Leadership Association and the Native American Center, to start a week of activities in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

Proceeds from the sale will go toward cultural programming organized by All Nations Leadership Association, a student organization at the college.

Also partaking in steamed corn stew was student Ryan Trujillo and Sligar's friend, Valentino Lee, who had mutton and dumpling stew.

"He told me stew and I rolled over here," Trujillo said about his drive to the college.

Shayne Garnenez pours a bowl of dumpling stew on Monday during a stew and fry bread sale at San Juan College Native American Center in Farmington.

Byron Tsabetsaye, director of the Native American Center, said members of the All Nations Leadership Association selected and organized the events this week.

Each one focuses on cultural awareness and celebration to teach native and non-native students, he said.

"Quite a lot of our students are very proud of who they are, where they come from (and) their heritage. It's a time to highlight that heritage and to show that culture," Tsabetsaye said.

Calvanda Atcitty, a member of the student organization, was preparing dough for frybread in the center's kitchen.

All Nations Leadership Association members Chantelle John, left, and Verrona Cardinal prepare fry bread Monday during a stew and fry bread sale at San Juan College Native American Center in Farmington.

By the time the sale started, she had used a 20-pound bag of Blue Bird Flour and was working through a second bag.

"For years, I was mixing it on my own. Sometimes it would come out too hard … but over the years, I've come to figure out how to make it," Atcitty said while pouring flour into a large plastic bowl.

She said her participation in the club helped her realize the importance of celebrating Native American Heritage Month.

"I've come to realize how important it is. Our culture should be kept around," Atcitty said.

Turquoise and Native American jewelry will be celebrated on Tuesday and there will be a screening of "Star Wars" in the Navajo language at 6 p.m. in the Student Sun Lounge.

Jordan Begay, center, takes an order from a customer Monday during the stew and fry bread sale at San Juan College Native American Center in Farmington.

There will be a presentation about moccasins by Venaya Yazzie at 10 a.m. Wednesday in room 1622

Yazzie, a Navajo and Hopi artist and a member of the Northwest New Mexico Arts Council, will talk about how moccasins are used in ceremonies and their significance and diversity among tribes.

Her presentation coincides with Rock Your Mocs, an annual event that encourages Native Americans, Alaska Natives, First Nations and indigenous people to wear their moccasins in honor of their cultures.

Thursday is traditional clothing and regalia day. The movie "Imprint" will show at 6 p.m. in the Student Sun Lounge.

Native American arts and crafts will be recognized on Friday and there will be a beading demonstration from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Native American Center.

Also on Friday, Tsabetsaye will interview Arizona State University student Megan Tom, a junior research scholar for the Arizona State University Center of Indian Education, about the impact indigenous student clubs and organizations have on college campus.

The program will air at 10 a.m. on the college's KSJE-FM radio station.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and by email at