Native students work for bigger voice at ASU

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

They’re a small group but they have a big voice.

The Barrett Indigenous Culture Association is one of the newest groups to represent diversity at Arizona State University.

Formed last spring by several Native American students in Barrett, the Honors College, the group has been working to make an impact both on campus and off.

“A group of us found each other at Barrett,” said Jennifer Jones, a junior engineering major who is the group’s president.

“The group is essentially driven to bring about a community within Barrett for indigenous students, along with recruiting potential high school students into the university and to Barrett, and to share our culture.”

Jones, who is a member of the Navajo tribe, said that ASU provides a lot of support for Native American students but there is still a need to get the word out about the many tribes in Arizona.

She realized that when she went to England and Ireland last year as part of her Barrett experience.

“When I talk to people from outside of the country, they think we’re gone,” she said.

“And there are also people who say ignorant things about Native Americans in Arizona, so it’s important that we share.”

Bringing more Native students to ASU is part of that. Jones has worked as an ambassador to Chandler-Gilbert Community College, which she attended, and has attended student-recruitment events.

Nilanjana Bhattacharjya, a Barrett professor who is the group’s faculty adviser, said that recruitment was a student-led initiative.

“They want to go back to their high schools and to reservation high schools to talk to the students,” she said.

“It’s very powerful when students who look like them say ‘you too can come to Barrett.' "

A highlight for the Barrett group was talking to author Sherman Alexie, who visited Barrett in September to deliver the Flinn Foundation Centennial Lecture (pictured above). Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and has written poetry and novels about the Indian experience in America.

Members of the Barrett association gave Alexie a tour of the campus and described the resources available to Native students.

The Barrett association wants to accept members and share culture from all indigenous groups, such as Pacific Islanders, and not just Native American tribes, Jones said.

“Barrett is a small community and we’re a small group in it,” she said. “We want people to see us.”

This month, the association is participating in Native American Heritage Month, a series of events sponsored by several groups on all campuses. Some of the events are:

Thursday, Nov. 5: Lunch lecture, “The Return of Indian Treaty Making,” by ASU Law professor Robert Clinton, 12:15 p.m., Armstrong Hall, Tempe campus, hosted by the Indian Law Program.

Thursday, Nov. 5: “History and Uses of Native Herbs,” 4 p.m., Colley Ballroom A, Polytechnic campus, hosted by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

Saturday, Nov. 7: “Community Conversations About Identity and Culture: The Cost of Indigenous Stereotypes and Mascots,” 9 a.m. to noon, Burton Barr Library, 1221 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, hosted by Project Humanities.

Saturday, Nov. 7: Pow Wow, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., featuring singers, dancers and other activities on the Fletcher Library Lawn, West campus, hosted by the Native American Events Committee.

Tuesday, Nov. 10: Barrett Indigenous Culture Association general meeting, 6:30 p.m., Sage South, Room 242, Tempe campus.

Thursday, Nov. 12: Indigenous Heritage Feast, 5 to 7:30 p.m., Secret Garden at Dixie Gammage Hall, Tempe campus, hosted by Light is Life Food Sovereignty Project.

Tuesday, Nov. 17: Fry bread sale, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Student Services lawn, Tempe campus, hosted by Native American Business Organization.

Thursday, Nov. 19: “One Word – Indian – Two Communities,” 6 to 8 p.m., Sparky’s Den, Memorial Union, Tempe campus, hosted by the Barrett Indigenous Culture Association and the Indian Students Association.

Friday, Nov. 20: “Transgender Day of Remembrance,” 3 to 5 p.m., Delph Courtyard, West campus, hosted by the Rainbow Coalition.

For a complete listing of events, visit the Facebook page of ASU’s American Indian Council.