At 6 a.m. on Tuesday, dozens of people from the University of Arizona and local communities gathered in front of Old Main for a traditional American Indian "sunrise ceremony" meant to welcome students and the start of a new academic year.
About 50 UA students, faculty, staff and administrators, and also local community members, attended the ceremony, which was organized by Steve Martin, program director for the UA Native American Student Affairs office.
Originally started by the UA's American Indian Studies Graduate Student Council, the ceremony has been held at the University for five years for spiritual renewal, to foster a sense of identity and to strengthen the community, said Karen Francis-Begay, the UA's assistant vice president for tribal relations.
"We had a great turnout. The weather was beautiful, and it really was a beautiful beginning to the new academic year, especially for the students," said Francis-Begay, a member of the Navajo Nation. "The ceremony centered on them, giving them the feeling that the University respects and acknolweges who they are."
Jesse Navarro and Tomasa Jose of the Tohono O'odham Nation conducted the ceremony, which was followed by a reception.
"We also acknolwedged the traditional homeland, the Tohono O'odham Nation," Francis-Begay said. "We pay our respects and honor the first peoples of this place, meaning the place where our University is located."
Members of the campus community will host similar events in November, during Native American Heritage month. Details on the month's events are forthcoming.