The Native American Cultural Center (NACC) is a focal point and platform for the diverse traditions, perspectives and contributions of Native American culture at Northern Arizona University (NAU). Located at the center of the Campus, the NACC welcomes students, scholars, tribal communities, the university community and the general public, providing opportunities to experience and learn about Native American culture. A “home away from home” for students, it houses activities that support student recruitment and retention, serving as a point of contact for native groups on campus and programs involving NAU and the tribes of Arizona. Designed to respect Mother Earth and Father Sky, the NACC embodies native values and serves as a symbol of NAU’s ongoing commitment to Native Americans.
The design of the NACC was informed by the “Indigenous Planning Process,” a value-based, participatory process invested in understanding the world view of diverse communities. Consensus-building was a key part of the process, engaging the community in meaningful ways to determine the nature of the project and how the NACC will be used over time, ensuring enduring support from subsequent generations.
Focus groups were conducted early on in the project to gain a better understanding of how people envisioned the proposed NACC and how it would be used. A common vision among participants was of a center that would reinforce a sense of community and build respect for tribal identity and culture. The design team asked the participants to draw and discuss symbols or themes to be used as a spiritual point of reference in the design of the NACC. Four such themes were chosen for the project: Ancestors and Emergence (Spiral), Natural Flows (Rivers), Time and Place (Spiral and Sun Path), Life Journeys (Trail of Tears).