Freshman Leadership Revives UNH Native American Cultural Association (NACA)


Jade Kwitkiwski, Contributing Writer

Despite being one of the seven advertised Diversity Support Coalition (DSC) organizations, the Native American Cultural Association (NACA) has held no executive board or general members meetings for many months. 

That is, until Monday evening on Feb.13, when students filed into the purple couches of the Aulbani J. Beauregard Center, a common meeting spot for DSC meetings, to hear from NACA’s newest Chair: first year student Megan Lemus. 

Even though she’s still sitting on an empty board, Lemus is supported by NACA dedicated advisor Stacy Hokinson, and various other faculty from the DSC. The DSC is an umbrella organization for UNH cultural clubs that seek to promote inclusion, justice and equity. 

The cozy introductory meeting highlighted Lemus’ goals for club growth and invited feedback from attendees about what they’d want to see in the future. 

“I think it went better than I expected,” Lemus said. “It was kind of scary for me because I’ve never been in charge of a club, let alone a club meeting. That was really scary for me. But I think it went well and I had a lot of support from other DSC organizations, so that was super awesome.”

Lemus, who also identifies as Native American, first heard of NACA at a Native American Heritage event last semester. After learning there were no active student representatives, Lemus decided to step in.

Among those who attended the first meeting was fourth year Brady Barre, executive director of the DSC. Similarly, Barre is new to their position as Director, filling the empty spot with the hopes that they could set the DSC up for success in future years. 

“I think there’s a lot of potential for [NACA] to become more consistent, especially with one: a student who’s so motivated to get the org up and running and I’ll be able to help support them however I can this semester,” Barre said. 

Lemus and Hokinson were seated side by side as the meeting commenced. Hokinson is entering her eleventh year as NACA’s advisor and emphasized the power of knowledge. 

“Knowledge gives the power of education,” Hokinson said. It helps those that do not know about the culture or ways to have a better understanding.  Knowledge is what we pass on from generation to generation to keep our traditions alive. It has been so rewarding when students embrace the culture and build friendships that will last a lifetime.” 

As a community, the DSC emphasizes membership of all students, regardless of if they hold the club’s identity or not. Lemus noted that NACA is not a closed club, but rather open to anyone who wants to learn more. 

“I think when you’re talking about affinity based groups it can be, ‘Oh, I don’t hold that identity so I’m not gonna go to these meetings.’ But especially at a predominantly white institution like UNH, it’s really important for white students to go to these other organizations and for students who don’t identify within the LGBTQ community to go to Alliance,” Barre said. 

Looking to the future, Lemus is working to recruit general and executive board members, with eyes most set on finding a Business Manager. She noted that it’s been difficult because students aren’t entirely sure what the job entails or believe they don’t have the right qualifications. 

So far, she’s found students with interest across academic fields, with several within the Indigenous Studies department. 

“People who are interested in say: geology. Everything goes back to Indigenous people in this country. There’s so much to learn from indigenous people and indigenous history that really go into any field,” Lemus said. “So I just feel like anyone who cares about their subject, or field of study, can also find a place within Native American culture and history. Because it really does have its way in everything.”