NASO honors one of their own, celebrates Native American Heritage Month with fundraiser/social

What better way to celebrate Native American Heritage Month than with a traditional Haudenosaunee Social?

The Native American Student Organization (NASO) at SUNY Buffalo State paid tribute to their culture and a recently departed friend during their Thanksgiving social and fundraising event his past Friday.

NASO president Brandon VanEvery has been part of the student organization for the last three years. He said he wanted to throw an event like this to get the campus community more involved with NASO.

“It’s pretty much taken a community matter…into the Buff State setting,” he said. “Trying to grow the community experience on campus through our organization, that’s what we try to do.”

The fundraising portion of the event was done to set up a scholarship in Danielle Terrance’s name. Terrance, a member of the Mohawk tribe, was a Buffalo State graduate student and employee. She was working toward her doctoral degree at Ohio State when she was diagnosed with stage four cancer. She passed away only a few weeks later, in August, at age 40.

Timothy Ecklund, NASO adviser, associate vice president for campus life and board member of Native American Community Services, served as Terrance’s mentor since she was a senior at UB. She would come to sit alongside him as a staff member of NACS, and then coauthor a chapter of his book on Native American college students, “Beyond the Asterisks.” NACS co-sponsored the event, helping provide food (including traditional Seneca corn soup and strawberry water), and donations, like raffle baskets.

Ecklund found the event to be a huge success, and a great way to celebrate Terrance’s memory.

“The whole night was just wonderful,” he said. “There were so many people that came. For those that knew Danielle I think it was a really good time to remember her, and for those who didn’t know Danielle it was a really nice time for them to get to know her.”

In keeping with traditional Haudenosaunee social practices, the community, including Terrance’s extended family, was invited to dine, dance, watch traditional dancers and listen to traditional singers. Former NASO vice president Taylor Judd was one of those family members.

Judd, Buffalo State junior and Terrance’s niece, said she was overwhelmed by the community response to the passing of her aunt. The money raised at the event will go into a scholarship fund for Native American students, which Judd thinks is a great way to serve her aunt’s memory.

“I am thrilled,” Judd said. “She always pushed all of her nieces and nephews to fulfill their duties in school and to never back down from a challenge.”

Another family member, Rosenhase Dalton Boots-LaBarge, cousin to Terrance, recited the Gano:nyog. The Gano:nyog is the traditional Seneca opening and closing of community or ceremonial gatherings that dates back to the 1790s, also known as the Thanksgiving Address. Boots-LaBarge learned to do this all in Mohawk, Terrance’s native language.

“She absolutely loved Dalton,” Judd said.

Community members got to celebrate Terrance’s life by watching a slideshow of her photos and by writing messages about her and what she meant to them. Ecklund remembers Terrance as being a very positive energy.

“I would describe her as a wonderful, bright ball of energy and happiness,” he said “And someone who was completely committed to Native American college students and their success.”

The event raised almost $3,000. NACS has additional funds to raise before they figure out exactly how much the scholarship will be worth and what it will be named, but one thing is for sure:  Danielle Terrance will forever live on at Buffalo State.

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