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Widener Freshman Preserving Her Native American Culture

Lark Durham is a princess. The word conjures visions of wealth and privilege, but for Durham, it’s about promoting and preserving her culture.

Durham, a freshman nursing student from Millville, N.J., is a member of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Native American tribe of Bridgeton, N.J.

On November 25, Durham brought a piece of her culture to Widener with a performance of the Red Blanket Singers, an intertribal drum group, which included demonstrations of Native-American dance styles including traditional, jingle, and fancy. The event was hosted by the Office of Multicultural Students Affairs in celebration of National Native American Heritage Month.

Durham (light pink costume in the video) demonstrated the traditional style of dance, and coaxed some of her fellow students to join her, teaching them the steps of the dance as the drums beat to the rhythm of the heart.

"I've been doing it since I was able to walk," Durham said, looking at a pair of children no older than two who joined in the performance. "We start them off young so they correctly learn the dances."

Durham served as princess of the tribe from 2009 to 2012, a process that including writing an essay on why she wanted to be a princess, a test on the tribe's history, an interview with tribal elders, and community service.

"My duties as princess are not over," she said. "My job is to go out and talk about my tribe and to teach the younger generation the tribal ways."

Durham chose Widener because of the strength of the nursing program. She is involved in the Black Student Union and serves as a protégé for the Pride Mentor, but she wants to become even more involved on campus.

"I would like to start a Native American organization so people at Widener who are of Native American descent can learn and explore their tribe and their culture."