By Matt Santos
With Native American Heritage Month coming to an end, the campus’s Native American community reflects on the new programs implemented by the Office of Tribal Relations for this month and prepare for their postponed annual Pow Wow in December.
On January 2019, a new initiative began on the campus which was the creation of the Office of Tribal Relations. This office allows the university to work with local tribes in the Inland Empire, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, to try and increase the number of Native American students attending the university, as well as create new programs for CSUSB.
Some of these programs include the Native American Heritage Month events such as the Conversations on Diversity event led by Charlene Teters on November 12, 2019, and the Menil and Her Heart play written by local Cahuilla youth which was performed on the Palm Desert campus on November 17.
The Office of Tribal Relations also plans on hosting Pow Wow from December 13 through 15 at the San Manuel Stadium, having been postponed earlier this quarter due to campus closures. They plan to add more programs throughout the year to create more opportunities for students.
Vincent Whipple, the director of the Office of Tribal Relations, emphasized that it is important for his office to provide opportunities to Native American students.
“The campus has not done as well of a job as it could in reaching out to tribal communities in the past,” said Whipple. “Now the university is using the “$960,000 grant donated by San Manuel to double the amount of Native American students on campus in a 3-year time span.”
According to the Office of Institutional Research, out of the 20,311 students enrolled in the Fall 2019 quarter, less than 1% identify as Native American.
Because of this, the Office of Tribal Relations is setting its plan into motion by assuming new programs, reaching out to tribes, and bringing awareness to the existence of these programs on campus. They have even reached out and made connections with Native American alumni who, according to Whipple, “felt like there was nothing for them when they attended CSUSB.”
However, despite these new programs, Native American students still feel like they have been brushed off.
“There hasn’t really been a very big inclusion,” said Daisia Williams, president of the Native American & Indigenous Students Association (NAISA). “We haven’t really been much so informed about the events going on for Native American Heritage Month.”
“I haven’t seen too many of them advertised,” added Dr. David Marshall, director of the University Honors Program.
Regardless of this, students and faculty still value the events brought forth by the Office of Tribal Relations. Third-year Kira Houseworth says that, although she is not Native American, she appreciates these events for allowing her to learn more about and appreciate a culture different from her own.
“I like having a culture open themselves up to you,” said Houseworth. “I like appreciating the art and funding of local stuff.”
As for Dr. Marshall, he believes it is important to embrace and celebrate Native American Heritage Month due in large part to the fact that CSUSB was founded on land owned by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. He said that “one way we can pay homage to that and recognize the indebtedness we have to them is by celebrating the month that recognizes them.
It is essential to Whipple that he and his office create and talk about the Native American programs on campus. In that way, they can support opportunities for high education for Native American people and create true diversity that CSUSB highly values.
“Native people have always been left out of the conversation in mainstream America,” said Whipple. “You can’t have true diversity until everyone is represented.”