Letter to the Editor: Native American campus organizations are proud to educate and include
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Letter to the Editor: Native American campus organizations are proud to educate and include

Many of USD’s traditions honoring inclusive excellence have roots decades old. In September, the 27th annual Red Road Gathering centered around the theme “Next Generation.” The Tiospaye Student Council will host its 47th annual Wacipi April 6-7, 2019 at USD’s Sanford Coyote Sports Center. Tiospaye also organized a Native American Heritage Month kick-off event with the Center for Diversity and Community on Nov. 1, 2018.

Native Student Services was proud to offer such a diverse range of programming for Native American Heritage Month. As the state’s flagship institution, we pride ourselves on building capacity, awareness and solutions for issues that affect Native communities across the state of South Dakota and in the region. We acknowledge the Oceti Sakowin and all first peoples of this land, for their contributions to what is now South Dakota, both past and present. Marisa Cummings, director of Native Student Services, brought together various programs and departments across campus to collaborate on a comprehensive programming for Native Heritage Month. Native Heritage Month 2018 reflected the collaborative efforts between the Native American Studies Program, the Department of Art, the College of Education, the Criminal Justice Program, USD HHMI Inclusive Science Initiative, the Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health and the Center for Diversity and Community.

Native American Heritage Month programming encompassed a wide range of topics, from community organizing through quilt making and to Dakota Language Revitalization and Song. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s (MMIW) Awareness week brought to light the epidemic of missing and murdered in the United States to build allies and solutions. Indigenous women are murdered 10 times more than the national average. Four in five American Indian women will also experience violence in their lifetime. Anitta Lucchesi’s “Mapping the Missing” discussed this epidemic Nov. 8 in Farber Hall. The week concluded with MMIW Interactive Community Quilting Project at the Native American Cultural Center and the film, Silent No More with a panel discussion in MUC Ballroom.

The Native American Studies Program also hosted two events in November. “Ohiyesa: Soul of an Indian” with filmmakers Kate Beane and Syd Beane was shown in Farber Hall on Nov. 15. Redwing Thomas also spoke about Dakota Language Revitalization and Song and hosted a Round Dance special on Nov. 27.

You may have also noticed the tipi that was standing on campus. Tiospaye Student Council wanted to share this with the USD community to increase understanding and communication. “The tipi on campus represents the life of an indigenous student. It shows how lonesome it feels to be surrounded by a white institution – the feeling of being displaced and unable to thrive – common for indigenous people throughout history. Such as being an indigenous scholar on a college campus – all eyes on you.” A tipi is a traditional home for the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota people who originally lived on these lands. There are many cultural teachings that go along with putting up, maintaining, and taking down a tipi. If you want to be an ally to Native students who feel alone on this campus or would like to know more about the teachings and/or the culture, remember it is always okay to ask!”

The purpose of the powerful programming throughout November was to educate and create community at USD and across the state. USD is an institution that values inclusive excellence. To quote our inclusive excellence statement, “USD embeds diversity and inclusiveness throughout every dimension and sector of the university. This inclusive excellence creates a welcoming community engaged in diversity. It provides an environment that prepares all students for living and working in a diverse society.”

The President’s Council for Diversity and Inclusiveness