By Crystal Avila |Contributing Writer|
The Native American and Indigenous Student Association (NAISA) has been approved for a First Nations Identity center to be located in the San Manuel Student Union at Cal State San Bernardino by the end of the spring quarter in 2017.
NAISA has been striving to create a student community where Native American and indigenous heritage can be shared and practiced. With approval for a dedicated space, they will have the opportunity to expand their community and teach curious student about their culture and history.
Charli Eaton, member of the Shawnee tribe and graduate student, described the importance of maintaining and practicing culture.
“Cultural pride is important. Also raising awareness that Native Americans are still here. It’s about survival, it’s about resilience, it’s about understanding where we come from and who we are which is why I feel so strongly about ethnic studies,” said Eaton, adviser to NAISA, 68.
“Everybody has a right to know where they come from,” continued Eaton.
Currently, NAISA has a total of ten members, half of which are graduate students and seniors.
The organization is in need of eager new students to aide in growth and momentum of the organization.
Janet Quintero-Leno, student and member of NAISA joined the organization for knowledge and is taking advantage of the resources available to help identify her indigenous ancestry.
“It means a lot to me because there is a lot history of indigenous people. It’s important to figure out your roots and to preserve that heritage if you have it, and if you want learn more about it. A lot of people overlook their indigenous heritage,” said Quintero-Leno, 25.
San Bernardino is at the center of major neighboring tribes located in Los Angeles and Riverside.
CSUSB was built on names based in Native American culture such as the San Manuel Student Union, named after a select members of Serrano Indians.
Mario Castellano, student, officer of NAISA, and enrolled member of Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla Cupeno elaborates on the importance of a name and its significance.
“In California a lot of the names like Rancho Cucamonga is a Tongva word, Cucamonga and Cahuenga are some of these words that have native meanings. Even in family, you can trace your name, your family name to a certain village in Mexico or a certain village out here. You have that ancestry and connection already to know where your people are from because it’s not all coincidence,” said Catellano, 35.
CSUSB has had close ties to the Serrano tribes hosting annual San Manuel Pow Wow for 21 years every October, the event is free and open to the public. The event is a three-day celebration for Native Americans to reconnect with their roots and share their experience with the public.
Considering CSUSB’s diverse background of students, it is crucial to listen to what these groups have to say. Community is necessary in the light of this political storm.
“We need native representation. We have native members here that have no place to go, they have nobody here to help them with resources, the education, and even the culture to help them stay connected,” said Catellano.
Shirley Begay, graduate student and enrolled native member of Hualapai welcomes student to NAISA.
“Membership is open to all Native American and indigenous students, but is not limited to Native American and indigenous students we are open to anyone who has an interest, a belief, who wants to support Native American issues, who is interested in the culture and traditions,” said Begay, President of NAISA.