Townsend Harris celebrates Native American Heritage Month through a fundraiser and the school bell music

HTML tutorial

In honor of Native American Heritage Month this November, the Townsend Harris High School Girl Up Club and the school administration have celebrated and brought awareness to indigenous culture. As part of this effort, Girl Up hosted a Friendsgiving Movie Night this past Wednesday and donated their ticket sales to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), while the administration changed the music of the end of band bells to music by Native American artists. 

Senior Isabella Sam, President of Girl Up,  said, “We were hoping to bring awareness to the inequalities that Native women face.” After researching more about Native American women and presenting this information to the club initially, the club decided to take more action to empower Native women.

“Native women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than non-Native women,” Girl Up Vice President and Secretary Raquel Mulakandov said. The club said they decided to donate to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) as “the [organization’s] values correlate with the values of Girl Up because we are a community made to end gender-based violence.”

In an attempt to secure a larger attendance, the club decided to screen three Thanksgiving episodes of the popular sitcom “Friends.” “While it would’ve been ideal to do a screening of a movie that relates to Native American heritage, our goal was to raise as much money as possible for the NIWRC,” said Isabella. 

Although the show itself was not related to Native American women, the club held a presentation at the beginning of the event about the hardships of Native American women and how the NIWRC is determined to end this. With about 40 attendees and other donors, Girl Up raised $460 in donations.

The change in bell music was another initiative organized by school aide Esther Yee and Assistant Principal of Organization Ellen Fee that worked to bring more awareness to Indigenous people. These songs were mainly chosen from a pre-made playlist consisting of different Native American artists.

Ms. Fee and Ms. Yee found the music from the company Urban Native Era with the tagline, “you are on native land.” “They have a Spotify playlist that they curated with indigenous musicians and it was from that,” said Ms. Fee. She then went on to explain how “Ms. Yee went through and picked songs from that that would be more appropriate for THHS and Ms. Yee also found some classical music.” Ultimately, the final bell schedule playlist consisted of three classical music pieces along with eight songs from the playlist made by the organization. 

Ms. Yee said, “A lot of the narrative is erased and an easy way to bring it back to the students is through music.” Many of the pieces chosen were modern as Ms. Yee believed that this would be the better choice.

Sophomore Premavaashine Premathayalan said, “I enjoyed it and it was nice to listen to. I believe that it was very thoughtful of the administration to make it known that it is Native American Heritage Month through this music as it reaches out to many individuals.”

“I understood at the beginning of the month that it was Native American music being played and I thought that it was great,” said sophomore Enzo Schulze. 

Nonetheless, these efforts helped bring attention to a culture that is often overlooked. “As a culture we’re learning that Indigenous people are sometimes erased in our nation’s history and I think bringing awareness to the month is important but also bringing their cultural contributions is also just as important. Hallway music is one way that we can celebrate musical contributions to our society,” said Ms. Fee.

Photo courtesy of THHS Girl Up