Native American students share personal experience with WSU, Indigenous Peoples Day

Native Student Center provides safe space, community

WSU+hosted+a+tipi+assembling+event+from+9-10+a.m.%2C+Oct.+10.

DEX ALTAVILLA

WSU hosted a tipi assembling event from 9-10 a.m., Oct. 10.

PUNEET BSANTI

[WSU] acknowledges that the disposition of Indigenous lands was often taken by coercive and violent acts, and the disregard of treaties. For that, WSU extends its deepest apologies. [WSU] owes [its] deepest gratitude to the Native peoples of this region and maintains [its] commitment towards reconciliation, according to the WSU Land Acknowledgement.

When Vincent Gonzalez and Alesia Nez came to WSU, they knew the school had a great Native American program. Now, they consider the Native Student Center to be a safe space. 

Nez, junior biology major, said she came to WSU from New Mexico because she wanted to challenge herself and live somewhere farther away. However, her parents did not feel it would be a safe space for her. 

“When I left home, my parents were like ‘don’t tell them you’re Navajo, don’t represent yourself up here’ because they didn’t know how it is. They said, ‘you’re so close to Idaho, there’s a bunch of racist people,’” she said. “In other terms, Native Americans weren’t thought of [as] safe up here.” 

Nez said she was used to being around Native Americans because her reservation was “so huge.” She said it felt weird not being surrounded by Native Americans, and when she was homesick she would sit outside the Native Center until she finally walked in. 

“That’s when I met another student named Fabian, and he introduced me to basically the whole Native center and that became a regular thing,” she said. 

Gonzalez, a WSU alum, is the Native American outreach coordinator, and before he came to WSU, he attended a different university in Washington. 

“It seemed like there were so many resources for Black and brown students compared to where I was going, so that’s why I wanted to come here,” he said. 

Gonzalez said he feels a lot of Native American students need to get exposed to the Native Center. 

“A lot of Natives also identify as two-spirited or as other identities like Chicanx, so I think it’s really important for them to know about those centers as well. I, myself, am biracial, so I think it’s important to know your resources,” he said.

Indigenous Peoples Day was held on Monday, following President Joe Biden’s proclamation acknowledging the observance of the celebration in 2021. 

Gonzalez said he believes it is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. 

“People are understanding more of the actual history, instead of [believing] the cover. Like ‘oh this is what happened,’ but why did it happen? So I think it’s a good step in the right direction,” he said. 

Nez said the truth is finally forming and believes there are some non-Natives who are finally acknowledging that truth. 

If freshman or other Native American students want to be involved within the community on campus, they can follow the Native American Programs Instagram, said Joelle Edwards, Native American Student Services director. 

“We serve the needs of Native students, but we also educate the campus and community too. If folks have questions or they wonder ‘can I go to this?’ the answer is always yes,” she said.