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'Indigibration' Part of Effort to Help Tribal College Students Feel Seen

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Thursday, October 7, 2021   

SHAWANO, Wis. -- Ahead of Indigenous Peoples' Day on Monday, a campaign is being launched to elevate the voices of tribal college students, with a message to help them feel visible year-round.

The campaign, led by the American Indian College Fund, noted Native American students often do not feel seen in higher-education settings. As they map out their futures, some say it is time for their peers, and society in general, to be more inclusive and recognize the contributions and ambitions of the students.

Jasmine Neosh, a student at the College of Menominee Nation in northwestern Wisconsin, said she has encountered issues in her academic career at prior mainstream institutions.

"It's oftentimes surprising for people to see us as culturally well-read, contemporary people," Neosh remarked.

Neosh acknowledged universities have improved in this area, but she added as a tribal student, she still feels the need to pursue more avenues in higher education to feel accepted.

Coinciding with the campaign is an online concert Sunday evening hosted by the College Fund. It will include stories from students and music from several well-known artists, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Central Time.

Jacob McArthur, a member of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation and a student at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, is pursuing a master's degree. He said even though he has had success in his college career, there is a question still looming.

"Will I be looked at like I'm legitimate, like my degree is as good as everybody else's?" McArthur wondered. "That's a real concern."

Both students also feel mainstream colleges and universities need to incorporate more Native history and culture in their teachings. Neosh contended a more welcoming and responsive environment would especially be helpful for younger tribal students going to college for the first time.

"When you're a kid, it's overwhelming and exhausting," Neosh recounted. "And you get kind of tired of not being around people who look like you."

Indigenous students represent only 1% of the U.S. undergraduate population.

Disclosure: American Indian College Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Education and Native American Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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