News | Student Life

Native American Council seeks greater campus presence

  • INDIGENOUS | Native American students join hands in a “round dance,” a dance of friendship, at Friday’s Cultural Showcase.

The Native American Council is looking to showcase the traditions and history of indigenous peoples this month—a month that could end with the group being given its own 114th Street brownstone.

November is Native American Heritage Month, and the council is hosting a number of cultural events and forums to explore what it means to be indigenous in America in 2012. The group is also one of six finalists for three brownstones, and administrators are expected to release a decision by Nov. 30.

Julian Noisecat, CC ’15 and the council’s treasurer, said that the events the group is putting on this month are “a good opportunity to share our culture and experiences.” The council’s Cultural Showcase on Friday featured a drumming circle, performances from various students—including signature dances from the students’ respective tribes—and modeling of native clothing.

“Native people are completely forgotten or misrepresented in our day-to-day culture,” said Noisecat, who is from the Shuswap and St’at’imc tribes in British Columbia.

“The theme is Native or American, which explores the indigenous peoples’ relationship with the U.S., Canada, and Mexico,” he added.

Council president Lakota Pochedley, CC ’13, said she sees this month as a learning experience.

“The heritage month events are meant to expose the community to our presence,” she said. “Indians don’t just exist way out in the country.”

NAC members said the events are also meant to highlight the problems that exist regarding for Native American and indigenous students at Columbia. Several said that they feel increasingly marginalized and underrepresented on campus—which is why NAC is applying for a brownstone.

The council made its final presentations to the Brownstone Review Committee on Friday. NAC members emphasized the importance of getting housing and a meeting space specifically for indigenous students. Fantasia Painter, CC ’13 and vice president of NAC, said that the brownstone would provide a safe space that the University hasn’t provided for the group.

Right now, the group reserves the Malcolm X Lounge, which primarily serves African-American students, for meetings. But it is often crowded and insufficient for group discussions and gatherings, Noisecat said.

Sara Chase, CC ’14, said that she sees the brownstone as a safe spiritual space for Native American students. She said that she often felt uncomfortable doing religious rituals in her dorm.

The brownstone, she believes, would change that, because she would be living with people who understand her religion.

“Getting the brownstone will mean, ‘Yes, we’re here. It’s OK,’” she said. “The space is a lasting impression on the community.”

“You constantly had to justify what you’re doing and who you are,” she said.

Noisecat also cited frustration with the council’s ability to prepare for the Cultural Showcase. He said that council members often could not find space to practice.

Considering these space issues, members said that a brownstone would be a monumental step in being recognized as an active student organization.

“We deserve a presence, and that requires us to live together as a community,” Noisecat said.

“The survival of our community at Columbia absolutely depends on it,” Painter said.

Still, Noisecat said he’s reluctant to assume that the council will get a brownstone.

“I think our chances of getting the house are the same as what Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse had in the Battle of Little Big Horn,” he said.

news@columbiaspectator.com

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Anonymous posted on

Yes CU, giving a BROWNSTONE for NATIVE AMERICAN students would be a monumental step for the University. They need it very much and deserved to be recognize.

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rick131 posted on

If you were born in the US, does that make you a native American?

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Anonymous posted on

So could there potentially be a casino reservation at CU?

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Anonymous posted on

Casinos are a function of the US government allowing American Indian nations greater economy autonomy, so no. Meanwhile, Columbia as an institution states that wants to foster a diverse community. While Bollinger and Coatesworth spoke in reference to the expansion of faculty diversity, their joint statement said “A diverse University community is essential to achieving academic excellence. Fostering the uninhibited exploration of competing ideas and beliefs—expressed by people of different backgrounds and perspectives—makes possible the distinct brand of scholarship, learning, research, and public service that are Columbia’s reason for being.” If Columbia actually stands for this sentiment, then by consequence, it would be in Columbia's interest to look out for and support its American Indian community, which a brownstone, a safe space, would help to do.

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Anonymous posted on

Beautiful work at garnering greater attention to the Native American community. Though a great amount of problems reside on the reservations, there are entire communities within the inner cities. Perhaps a program similar to the one at Cornell University would help bring some attention in NYC to the American Indian. Best wishes to Columbia in their quest for a brownstone! I'm rooting for it :)

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Anonymous posted on

LOVE THIS. There needs to be more voice for the Native American community and Indigenous Peoples. These issues can't just be swept under the rug of history.

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Anonymous posted on

How does this foster diversity or promote progressive ideals...Isn't this just another form of "separate but equal"?

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