TCU Twirler Uses Platform To Showcase Native American Culture – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth


The month of November is reserved for honoring and learning about Native American history and culture.

Tens of thousands of Native Americans live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, representing more than 200 tribal nations.

Texas Christian University in Fort Worth is listening to these voices in an effort to effect change on campus.

Haylee Chiariello is the featured twirler of the TCU Horned Frog Marching Band. She is a registered citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Photo credit: Haylee Chiariello

“As a registered citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, I would say that I will live my ancestor’s dreams. It is absolutely amazing to see the work that I am able to do. I am so proud of the accomplishments that I was able to accomplish at TCU not only as a student, but as a young Cherokee, ”said Haylee Chiariello, a second year transfer student.

Chiariello has a prominent role on the Fort Worth campus. Much of it revolves around his work to amplify the voices of Native Americans. She is a member of the Native American Advisory Council, a new initiative of TCU.

“Giving this student an insight has been absolutely amazing. And I’m also a member of TCU’s Race and Reconciliation initiative. So I’m going to give a perspective on TCU’s history with Native American people and I’m also trying to understand. how we can move forward so that native students like me feel they belong at TCU because sometimes it seems far away, ”she said.

His skills with a stick brought Chiariello to Fort Worth. She is the featured twirler of the Horned Frog Marching Band; a will, she believes, to those who came before her.

TCU has spent the past five years working to improve its relationship with the Native American community. It all started with a monument and a formal recognition that the Fort Worth campus is on former tribal lands. NBC5’s Deborah Ferguson chats with TCU Native Nations and Communities Liaison Scott Langston and student Haylee Chiariello who work …

“I grew up in Oklahoma City, I was very close to my family, my Cherokee grandfather. I would often spend the weekends at his house and he would cook grape dumplings and other types of delicious Cherokee food for us. He is a Cherokee craftsman, and I would spend my time with him and I knew the importance of continuing our heritage and keeping the breath of our ancestors alive. So I’m continuing the line here at TCU, ”she said.

Chiarello and Scott Langston, religion professor and TCU Native Nations and Communities Liaison, spoke with NBC5 about the university’s work in connecting with Indigenous peoples.

Langston began with a history lesson.

“Every inch of land in the metroplex is Native American land that was violently taken from them and then colonized by non-native people over a long period of time and sort of the last step in this process of taking possession of this land has taken place. May 24, 1841, when General H. Tarrant led a group of Texas militias to attack the indigenous people who lived in the area and historians will indicate that this is somewhat of the last step in driving the indigenous people out of what became the Dallas-Fort worth metroplex. And then, in just a few months, non-natives were settling in and colonizing the area, ”he explained.“ Now, TCU did not exist at that time. TCU was created in 1873 but TCU is the beneficiary of a system that was put in place on the basis of the violent taking of land from the Indians and then its redistribution. “

Conversations that began in 2015 led to a monument on campus in 2018 that honors the Wichita and affiliated tribes on whose historic homeland the university is located.

In April 2021, the university approved a land recognition recognizing once again that it is on ancient land.

“For the first time in TCU’s 148-year history, last September this recognition was read at the start, a very important high-level academic ceremony. And it reflects how we develop an awareness that we need to have these conversations with Native American people, communities, nations. learn from them. Not just study them as we have done for so long in our past, but actually learn and listen to native people, “said Langston. “And, I think connecting with these groups and individuals and having these conversations is very, very important in unlearning the untruths that have been taught to us.”

“I think it’s important to engage in the efforts that TCU offers and try to be part of the conversations. Listen to what the Native Americans are saying. Listen to our voices. We’re still here and we have a lot. of things we say and seek to do, ”Chiariello said.

Langston says Chiariello is one of less than three dozen self-identified Native American students among the 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It only had nine faculty members who identify as Native American or Alaska Native.

Chiariello was fully aware that she would be on a college campus as a marginalized student, but she believes her voice is heard and her perspective is appreciated. She is a young woman with a strong sense of herself and determination.

“I would say that my family has played a huge role in my, in what I try to accomplish for Indigenous people, but also in observing the world around me. I recognize that Native Americans are underestimated in roles that I pursue. I serve as a star twirler in a big institution D1. There are not many young women who can serve in this title who look like me and who have this training, “she said. .

“I would say my journey is filled with many moments that are not easy. My journey as a young Native American college student has been pushed back, but I have chosen to focus on what I’m trying to accomplish. . And I really tune in to listen to the voices of my ancestors because I know I am doing the job they dreamed of. I am here and I am here because of their resilience.

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