Indigenous life on campus: How Indigenous students presently feel on campus today and what they hope for tomorrow
Editor’s note: This article was written in conjunction with the latest episode of “Full Disclosure,” a Yale Daily News podcast that features uncomfortable conversations on campus. The episode titled “Native Students Speak on Fall Semester and its Significance”
discusses the ways Indigenous students on campus find comfort in their community at Yale, as well as the different areas where students and the administration can do better.
Cultural life at Yale is different for everyone. There are cultural centers on campus with the goal of providing a community for the cultures they represent. In light of Native American Heritage Month and the celebration of Indigenous People’s Day, the importance of understanding Indigenous students’ perspectives cannot be overstated.
In a podcast interview, three Yale students involved with Indigenous life on campus discussed the importance of celebrating Indigenous culture on campus and ways the administration can better recognize Indigenous life at Yale.
“We are all coming from different tribal communities,” former President of the Association of Native Americans at Yale and house staff member at the Native American Cultural Center Meghan Gupta ’21 explained. “We definitely do a lot of things that are involving all of our communities but I think that, especially with the NACC, the leadership does a great job emphasizing that we should be pursuing more knowledge and celebrating our distinct cultures.”
According to Gupta, the NACC offers language classes for specific dialects of various Native American tribes. These courses allow Indigenous students to “practice [their] traditions at Yale,” Gupta said.
Evan Roberts ’23, current president of the ANAAY and peer liaison with the NACC, told the News that the reason for hosting different courses and celebrations for various tribes and native cultures comes from the sheer number of Indigenous students at Yale.
“There’s only going to be so many people from each tribe,” Roberts said. “It’s not going to be all people from two distinct tribes. I think that’s just the nature of it.”
Lex Schultz ’24, the current co-bonding coordinator for the ANAAY, told the News that the NACC and the ANNAY focus more so on the distinction of tribes rather than pan-Indigenous identity, which other institutions promote.
However, Schultz does not see this distinction of tribes elsewhere in the greater Yale community.
“I’ve never heard them [the administration] mention Indigenous peoples, so I do think it is homogenized in that they don’t talk about us at all,” Schultz said.
This year, the recognition of Indigenous People’s Day came from student organizations like the Yale College Council rather than the University administration.
“I’ve seen departments and student groups on campus doing it but not the actual administration, but there wasn’t something sent out for Columbus Day, either,” Gupta said. “In doing so, I think it really fails to center Indigenous people on this day. Not doing anything isn’t better.”
Gupta and Roberts applauded student groups and academic departments for recognizing the holiday.
Schultz told the News that she believes that Columbus Day is not downplayed enough by Yale to justify their lack of recognition for Indigenous People’s Day. Schultz noted her own interactions with people who still believe that “Columbus is a hero and that he’s the foundation of our modern society.” Schultz told the News that this mindset would be preventable if the administration were to officially recognize Indigenous People’s Day.
Gupta made it clear that the administration’s avoidance of recognizing the holiday also erases Native American history.
“One of the biggest things I’d like to see is a full recognition by some kind of announcement that says the Native American community at Yale has been amazing and has done all these amazing things because we have,” Gupta said. “A little goes a long way in this recognition.”
According to Roberts, the native community at Yale hopes to develop further relationships with other cultural groups both on and off campus. Different cultural groups should “join futures in activism and advocacy,” Roberts said.
“Something that we’ve been talking [about] a lot is how can we have amazing intercultural solidarity,” Gupta said. “How can we really lift each other up? How can we work together on what we want to achieve? I think there is a lot of powerful potential there.”
The ANNAY was the first student group dedicated to Native American students at Yale.
Christion Zappley | email@example.com