The UCSB American Indian community will gather Thursday to celebrate its heritage.

In celebration of American Indian Cultural Days, UCSB’s American Indian Student Association (AISA) will host a picnic from noon until 1 p.m. Thursday at the Tree of Peace in front of Storke Tower.

In preparation for the event, a T-shirt making party will be held Wednesday night at the African American & American Indian Cultural Center from 6 to 9 p.m.

“The idea is that people can put what being an American Indian means to them on a T-shirt and then wear it the next day,” AISA chair Randi Balderama said.

Both events are open to the public, and although participants are encouraged to bring a potluck dish to the picnic, admission is free.

This year AISA is taking a different approach to celebrating American Indian Cultural Days. Leslie Koda, coordinator of American Indian Cultural Services, said much of the emphasis in previous years was placed on educating the whole campus about American Indian culture. This year the focus turns to members of the American Indian community and its supporters.

“This year we decided to focus more on building students together as a community,” Balderama said.

Self-identified American Indian students make up less than 1 percent of UCSB’s student body and represent roughly 20 different tribal nations. Balderama said this small number makes it even more essential to bring those members of the community together.

“That’s why we have [the events] and we have the American Indian Student Association,” Balderama said, “just to show that there are American Indians on campus and that we can be a strong community.”