NACC settles into new home on High Street

The new Native American Cultural Center, located on Crown Street, will open its doors to students Sept. 15.
The new Native American Cultural Center, located on Crown Street, will open its doors to students Sept. 15. Photo by Cynthia Hua.

A three-story house sporting a bright, red brick façade and a column porch on the corner of High and Crown will soon open its doors as the new Native American Cultural Center.

Formerly used as graduate student housing, the building is a short walk from the NACC’s former residence on the top floor of 295 Crown St. The group announced the move in November 2011 and completed renovations on the 4,650-square foot building, which will officially be open for use on Sept. 15, this summer. Members of the NACC said they are excited that the organization has finally found a resting place where it can expand and grow.

“It’s been a lot of work to get where we’re at,” said Theodore Van Alst, director of the NACC. “A lot of people have contributed and it shows commitment from Yale.”

Since the NACC was founded 20 years ago at Yale, it has cycled through sites it shared with La Casa as well as the Asian American Cultural Center. The group has also borrowed spaces such as Yale College Dean Mary Miller’s house for events.

The house, located at 26 High St., is owned by the University and the renovations were a project overseen by the Provost’s Office.

Students helping move into the space over the weekend said they hope to use the house for enhancing its programs, such as holding Blue Feather Drum Group practices in a gallery lit up by a skylight. The kitchen will provide a place where members can share meals and make frybread — an “Indian taco” of fried, gluey dough — or enjoy Van Alst’s cooking specialties, buffalo burgers and barbecue.

Members of the house also said they look forward to throwing larger social events, perhaps hosting their first major party.

“[The new building] will definitely lend itself well to social gatherings,” said Justin Riner ’16, a NACC peer liaison. “While we do want it to be a space for culture, we also want it to be a place to bond.”

Van Alst said a grand opening and formal dedication is planned for November, arranged to coincide with the fourth Henry Roe Cloud Conference, which is a celebration of native culture open to alumni and students and named in honor of a man believed to be the first Native American to earn a Yale degree.

Riner said he found mentorship and friendship within the NACC his freshman year and he believes the new space — which includes a new lounge furnished with comfortable seating and a large television — will allow more students to have the same bonding experience.

The new residence will also open up room to display art that relates to the Native American heritage, Van Alst said, and the décor throughout the new NACC will reflect cultural forms from many tribal nations. Among the accumulated work are vintage Yale powwow posters advertising traditional Native American dances and celebrations at the Payne Whitney Gymnasium as well as contemporary art such as a poster of “LEGO My Land” by pop artist Steven Judd.

The Association of Native Americans at Yale plans to have its first meeting of the year Tuesday evening at the new center.

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