Reps form Ivy Native Council

Native American students from across the Ivy League gathered at Dartmouth this weekend to participate in a conference called Indigenous Minds Uniting and to establish the Ivy Native Council.

The Council will meet regularly to discuss issues of concern to the Native American community. Each school in the Ivy League will have one delegate to the council. At the conference, attendees also discussed recruiting and retaining Native American students and faculty members as well as setting up Native American Studies programs, said Association of Native Americans at Yale President Nicole Willis ’05, who will be Yale’s delegate.

The goals of the newly-established council include organizing more conferences, keeping Native American students across the Ivy League aware of common issues, and making sure the council becomes a supportive organization that can urge administrators to consider Native American issues, Willis said.

Shani Harmon ’06, who attended the conference, said it allowed her to network with Native American students and faculty at other schools. She said attendees discussed Native American Studies programs at different schools. They also talked about incorporating courses that address Native American issues into traditional curricula, she said, as well as fellowship opportunities.

Yale does not currently have a Native American Studies program.

The conference, Willis said, was the first native student conference for Ivy League students.

Willis said Yale could do much better with Native American issues.

“We have one of the best history departments in the world,” Willis said, “yet we ignore our own history.”

Assistant Dean of Yale College Rosalinda Garcia currently directs the Native American Cultural Center. Willis said while Garcia performs administrative duties for the Native American Cultural Center, she is also responsible for directing the Latino Cultural Center. Willis said Yale should hire a cultural dean who is Native American.

Garcia was unavailable for comment Sunday.

Raina Thiele ’05, who also participated in the conference, said it allowed Native American students to show solidarity with one another.

“Having us all come together and speak about issues that affect us all as native Ivy League students [was important],” Thiele said.

At the conference, Willis said, students also discussed a recent performance at the Grammy Awards. During the show, Outkast’s act had a “Native American” theme.

“I’m not easily offended by things like mascots, but Outkast was disgusting,” Willis said. “I’m really not sure what they were trying to accomplish. It was an imitation of Hollywood Indian stereotypes.”

Willis said if the act had been offensive to any other minority group, there would have been more of a backlash.

Two Ivy League conferences for Native Americans have been planned for the 2004-2005 academic year, Willis said. In the fall, Brown will host the conference, she said, while Yale will welcome Native American students from around the Ivy League in the spring.

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