Nationalities Council of Indiana
Membership-Based Non-Profit Celebrating Indy’s Ethnic Diversity
What began as a sub-committee of The International Center in 1976 later became its own non-profit organization, best known for its annual International Festival.
The Nationalities Council of Indiana (NCI) has a long-standing history of promoting Indiana’s multicultural community through grassroots efforts. This history is deeply intertwined with The International Center, as both organizations date back to 1973. When The International Center was first created, the Nationalities Council of Indiana was a standing committee within the organization.
The Council was tasked with bringing together various ethnic groups to raise awareness and educate Hoosiers about Indiana’s diverse culture. Their dedicated work led to the creation of the first International Festival, which was held jointly with The Center in 1976. This event celebrated the many ethnic communities in Indiana and showcased their contributions to the local culture and economy.
The NCI continued to grow over the years until it eventually became a separate nonprofit entity in 1988 when it assumed sole responsibility for the annual International Festival.
Today, over 50 ethnic and cultural organizations belong to the Nationalities Council of Indiana. Their core mission is to promote ethnic activities and cultural exchange among people of all nationalities, races and cultures. The NCI also supports cultural and ethnic organizations across the state by facilitating their activities and programs.
“We want to showcase that Indiana is diverse with a tapestry of cultures that have all contributed to Indiana’s heritage,” shared Marlon Alfonso, president of NCI.
The International Festival is still the NCI’s signature event, designed to feed the body, mind and spirit. Each year, they showcase authentic foods, cultural artifacts and artistic performances from every continent. Volunteers share stories about their heritage while wearing traditional dress, as talented performers showcase their culture’s beautiful choreography and music.
One of the primary goals of the International Festival is to engage with local school systems and provide students with an enriching educational experience. The event gives students a unique opportunity to learn about cultural diversity while exploring their own ethnic roots. They can even “travel” through the festival with student passports provided by the Council.
The NCI also organizes the annual nationalities showcase at the 500 Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis. The Indianapolis 500 is a truly international event that welcomes drivers and visitors from across the globe. Each year, The International Center supplies flags for the NCI to use so each cultural group can proudly represent their country as they walk in the parade.
If you’re interested in learning more about Indiana’s multicultural community, the Nationalities Council is a great resource for locals and visitors alike. Not only do they publish a monthly newsletter called “Ethnic Hoosier,” but their website also has links to hundreds of multicultural and international organizations in Indiana. They even maintain a calendar of international events, as well as the only comprehensive directory of ethnic restaurants, markets and festivals in the area.