Multicultural Student Services celebrates Native American Heritage Month

A student is tracing a moccasin pattern. BYU Multicultural Student Services hosted Rock Your Mocs on Nov. 7-9. (Audrey Hill)

BYU Multicultural Student Services hosted Rock Your Mocs Nov. 7-9, encouraging all students to learn about Native American culture and how to make moccasins.

Beyond BYU, Rock Your Mocs is a worldwide celebration of unity for Native American and Indigenous Peoples during Native American Heritage Month, according to Rock Your Mocs. Native American Heritage Month has been celebrated every November since 1990.

A student begins sewing his moccasin. Participants of the Rock Your Mocs event each created their own pair of moccasins. (Audrey Hill)

BYU’s Rock Your Mocs provided students with the opportunity to come and learn how to make their own moccasins. 

Students paid a fee of $20 for the materials to make moccasins. Instructors were present at the event to walk students step-by-step on how to make their moccasins.

One such instructor was Shelby Benally, a BYU alumna who learned to make moccasins as an undergraduate student at BYU. Benally explained how in her undergraduate career, BYU had Native American hoop dancing classes in the fall and moccasin-making classes in the winter. After taking both of the classes, students had the opportunity to perform in BYU’s annual Pow Wow in March, debuting the moccasins they made. 

Benally started making moccasins as a freshman at BYU and continues the tradition by making them and other dance regalia for her five children, along with teaching others to make moccasins.

“I want (the students) to enjoy it and to know what they’re doing is impactful for their community because it has been for me,” Benally said. 

Benally encouraged everyone to explore different media created by Native Americans to learn more about the culture. 

A student participant traces a pattern onto leather at BYU’s Rock Your Mocs event. Participants were provided with all the materials needed to create moccasins. (Audrey Hill)

“I think sometimes, especially here on campus, we’re one of the smaller populations,” Mariah Rivera, Multicultural Student Services advisor, said. “It’s nice to be able to share with others who we are, what we believe, and that we’re still here — that we haven’t gone away.”

Rivera explained Native American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate Native American Heritage and also an opportunity to learn more about the different tribes. 

“I think a lot of us like to say ‘Every month is Native American Heritage Month,’ but it’s a nice time to be able to think back on the things that have happened, especially around this season of Thanksgiving,” Rivera said. 

Ryan Tsosie, a junior studying mechanical engineering, explained how events like Rock Your Mocs allow students to be “Etched in the traditions and cultures of different types of people.”

“It’s always good to learn about culture and history about other people,” Tsosie said. “For me, this is celebrating my heritage as well.”

Tsosie continued to encourage all people to find ways to celebrate their own culture and history along with learning about other cultures. 

BYU will continue to celebrate Native American culture throughout the month of November and in other upcoming months. 

“Come and learn about who we are and to realize … that we still are here,” Rivera said.

From Nov. 13-17, the Tribe of Many Feathers will be hosting Rock Your Mocs Week with different events every day. There will also be a Navajo Tacos & Fry Bread Sale on Nov. 14 from noon to 4 p.m. BYU’s annual Pow Wow will be held in March.

BYU’s Tribe of Many Feathers club will host events throughout the week for Rock Your Mocs Week. Events will be held Nov. 13-17. (Photo courtesy of Tribe of Many Feathers)
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