The UT Native American Student Association will host their 6th annual "Native American Heritage Night" on Friday. The event will pay tribute to Native American veterans and focus on their involvement in the American military in the past and present.
"It's a heritage night that is focused on veterans and how they're contributing to the military forces, which are really important to everyone in the country," Brittani Blanchard, the president of the Native American Student Association and senior in psychology, said.
Richard Allen of the Cherokee Nation will be speaking at the event about the role of Native Americans in the armed forces in the past and present. Allen is a Vietnam veteran and currently acts as the liaison between the Cherokee Nation and federal, state and tribal agencies.
A formal dinner will be served for the guests at the event and Awohali, a northern drum group from the Eastern Band Cherokee tribe, will be performing as well. The group consists of five members and will sing, dance and play drums around a larger central drum.
"My favorite part of the event will be the Northern Drum Group Awohali, because I love Native (American) music. It gives me a closer connection to my Native roots, it is soothing to the soul," Tiffany Donner, vice president of the organization and sophomore in hotel, restaurant and tourism management, said.
Blanchard said she hopes that students will learn more about the Native American culture and how they are contributing to the armed forces.
"I want guests to have a better understanding of Native Americans and all we have to offer. Many people just think we are all the same when, in fact, there are hundreds of tribes across America with different traditions, languages and beliefs," Donner said.
In past years at "Native American Heritage Night," certain speakers have come to talk about the Trail of Tears, while others have participated in an ongoing film series.
"It is a tradition for us. What I want to do is make it a tradition for UT," Blanchard said.