The Native Living Learning Community (LLC) has grown in its second year from 18 students to 37 students.
John Little, director of Native Recruitment and Alumni Engagement, said the group otherwise known as Wiyuskinyan Unpi Tipi, which roughly translates to “they’re living contently together,” is a great way for Native students to be around other Native students.
Little said the community is made up of students mostly living on Mickelson’s second floor and originating from South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Iowa. There are 14 different tribal nations represented on that list, Little said.
“It’s nice to get a wide range for them to learn from each other,” Little said. “They’re all Native, but also have very different experiences.”
Little said the growth can be attributed to planning, implementation, calling students and extra time to prepare. Understanding the value and promoting it to students was another huge part as well, Little said.
It created “a good opportunity for Native students to connect from across the state to either live together or be on the floor and participate in this,” Little said.
Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, director of Native Student Services, said she thinks it’s important to acknowledge their partners like the Recruitment and Retention Team and a lot of other people who have promoted this to Native students, families and communities.
“I just want to express my gratitude to everyone who’s really helped us in advocating for this,” Red Shirt-Shaw said.
Red Shirt-Shaw believes it is important for all students on campus to feel like they have a sense of belonging.
“That’s critical to your college experience to feel like there’s a space or a place or a group of people that you feel connected to,” Red Shirt-Shaw said.
This experience also allows students to broaden their horizons and understandings to listen to stories different from how they grew up or their own tribal communities, Red Shirt-Shaw said.
Students do not have to be a part of the Native LLC to be involved in the community. Red Shirt-Shaw said her and her team are trying to encourage even more outward growth.
“There’s this misconception that I can only go if I identify as [Native],” Red Shirt-Shaw said. “For us, we really want to create a space where you can come and you can learn and you can listen to different peoples’ perspectives.”
Red Shirt-Shaw said bringing the community in to experience Native people, Native culture and everything they have to offer is really what they are trying to do.
“The heart of this is friendship and family,” Red Shirt-Shaw said. “And if we as an institution can make that just a little bit easier for students, we want to do that.”