USC gets Native American Culture Club

One of the newest cultural clubs on campus offers a chance to celebrate culture in a unique way: through powwows and rituals.

The new Native American Culture Club was created this semester to fill what some saw as a void on campus.

Rev. Jim Burklo, associate dean of Religious Life, sparked the club’s creation. While working at Stanford University in a religious office, Burklo said he often observed students frequenting the Native American Studies office, admiring the active cultural center for Native Americans at the school.

At USC, Burklo said, he saw an “empty place in the club offerings,” and decided to help found a Native American Cultural Club on campus.

“Native American culture can be a useful model for the role of spirituality in life,” Burklo said. “Americans tend to think of religion as a set of beliefs, whereas Native Americans weave culture and religion together. It is

something that all religions can learn from.”

At the start of the semester, Burklo approached Antonia Blumberg, a sophomore anthropology major who works in the Office of Religious Life, and enlisted her to help with starting up the club.

Blumberg said the club is intended for students of Native American ancestry as well as those, like herself, who simply have an interest in native cultures and traditions.

She said the club focuses on Native American spirituality and rituals.

“We want to celebrate native ancestry with powwows, sun dances and visiting healers and chiefs,” Blumberg said.

To keep a religious focus, the club emphasizes animistic spirituality at its events. Many tribes share a common belief that spirits are present in all earthly objects including rocks, trees and animals, Blumberg said.

At one recent meeting, members of the club performed a ritual sweat lodge — a group therapy session where attendees sit and share emotions and concerns, according to Merisenda Bills, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism who participated in the sweat lodge.

Bills said she has a Native American great-grandmother, and joined the club because she is interested in learning more about Native American culture and practices. She also hopes the club will help the Native American culture gain more exposure.

“There are so many people of Native American ancestry in LA and not many people know about it,” Bills said. “This club should open their minds and expand their knowledge on their culture.”

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