Dream catchers, like the one shown above, are an important part of many Native American cultures. ALEXANDRA VENTURA/FLICKR VIA CC BY-NC 2.0
Dreamcatchers, like the one shown above, are an important part of many Native American cultures. Stony Brook University’s Native American Student Organization taught event attendees how to make dreamcatchers at its Dreamcatcher Social on Oct. 27. ALEXANDRA VENTURA/FLICKR VIA CC BY-NC 2.0

Instead of helping students follow their dreams, the Native American Student Organization helped students catch them.

The organization hosted its first ever Dreamcatcher Social on Oct. 27, where students were taught how to make their own dreamcatchers. The event, which was held in the new UNITI Cultural Center in the Student Activities Center, was brought to campus as part of the Native American Heritage Awareness series taking place throughout November.

The social aimed to unite people of different cultures while also educating them about Native American traditions.

Before the activity began, the organization’s board members gave a presentation about the meaning behind dreamcatchers. According to Native American tradition, good dreams pass through a dreamcatcher’s web but nightmares are caught and destroyed by the first light of morning.

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“I haven’t been sleeping well so I hope the dreamcatcher I make helps me out,” Pamela Puello, a freshman undecided major, said.

Evidently, this use of dreamcatchers was already well-known. Many students in attendance were intent on perfecting their dreamcatchers so they could protect themselves against nightmares.

“I actually learned because I was having nightmares,” Autumn Rose Williams, the NASO president’s sister, said about making a dreamcatcher.

She had previously given dreamcatcher tutorials with the Native American Student Association at Virginia Commonwealth University, and came to Stony Brook to help her youngest brother Nitauke Williams, a sophomore business major and president of NASO, with his program.

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The organization provided the supplies for the dreamcatchers, giving attendees a choice between an easier metal hoop and a more traditional stick hoop. The stick hoops were collected and made by an alum of the organization. The hoops are symbolic of unity, and form the structure of the dreamcatcher.

Club members gave step-by-step instructions on how to wrap the hoops with leather, create the intricate inner web with imitation sinew and decorate the dreamcatcher with feathers, shells and beads. They walked around the room to offer help and answer any questions.

“It is an intricate craft, so people don’t usually get it on the first try,” Autumn Rose said.

Despite the complexity of making a dreamcatcher, attendees enjoyed themselves. They moved tables together and laughed as they struggled to weave their intricate webs.

“This takes a lot of patience, but I’m loving it,” Puello said.

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The club members were pleasantly surprised by the event. Jay Levenson, the organization’s advisor and a Stony Brook employee, said the organization was expecting “just a handful of people,” so they were not immediately prepared to help the 34 students in attendance. The room in the UNITI Center did not even have enough room for the event, so people had to bring in chairs from the lobby.

“Dreamcatchers always get that turn out,” Autumn Rose said. “They have that popularity.”

Despite the slight overcrowding, members still saw the event as a successful outreach opportunity. The organization, which was revived in the spring of 2014, aims to remind the Stony Brook community that they are still a presence on campus and wish to share their heritage with others.

“I want people to know Native Americans are still here and alive in America,” Nitauke said.

“This is an opportunity for them to grow their club,” Levenson said. “As far as I’m concerned, the most important part is getting people to know there are Native American students on this campus.”

Nitauke has ideas on how to branch out further. Since the beginning of the semester, he has been meeting once a week with an administrative group, including Cheryl Chambers, the associate dean and director of multicultural affairs, to come up with ways to promote and grow their organization.

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“I plan to have a social event where they get to see a real Native American social,” Nitauke said. “In my culture, we just bring everyone together. It’s all about love and family, honestly.”

The organization is co-sponsoring the Native American Heritage Awareness series as well, so you can most likely find them at the Melville Galleria during Campus Life Time on Wednesday, Nov. 2, for a Native American Display and Education Exhibit.

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