Today: Jun 25, 2024

Buley hosts Native American Heritage Month

Braden Saint-Val – News Writer

Brandon Cortés – General Reporter

Inside Buley Library, the first-floor exhibit case features books by Native American authors curated by Jacqueline Toce, the library’s head of technical services. Multicultural Affairs and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, DEI, are hosting one of many programs this month to commemorate National Native American Heritage Month. 

They cover a variety of topics from biographies, art, history and politics to juvenile literature like “We are Still Here!” by Traci Sorell. 

“‘We Are Still Here!’ is a children’s book that discusses Native American history but also wants readers to know that Native Americans are present in society, and it discusses issues of social justice and politics that affect them,” Toce said. 

Daisy Torres-Baez, DEI’s faculty and staff diversity recruitment and retention specialist, presented an online seminar called “Me and We Search”, where they talked about the methodology, terminology, personality and research agendas that centers Native American and Indigenous identity and/or communities. 

Since 1990, the month of November has been designated to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories of the Native Americans. 

Torres-Baez said that a crucial aspect of Indigenous or native communities lies in the robust interconnection among them: the formation of narratives, languages and highlighting the cohesive fabric that binds these communities together. 

“In Quechua, we have ‘Pachamama,’ which you can translate from English to Spanish as ‘mother earth,’” Torres-Baez said. “There is a relationship with plants, nature and everything that surrounds it, which in turn helps the creation of stories in these communities.” 

In the pursuit of researching Native Americans or Indigenous communities, Torres-Baez found critical importance in considering the purpose and methods behind conducting such research. 

“We have to think about who’s benefitting from this research. Whose interests does it serve? Who will carry it out? This doesn’t only apply to research about Native Americans and Indigenous people but to many other types of research.” 

The sense of reciprocity is not commonly mentioned when researching these types of communities. DEI’s Vice President Diane Ariza said, “If anything, the ‘white savior’ complex or the ‘American savior’ complex always comes into play.” 

Ariza said that individuals often enter these communities with a mindset of “I’m here to save you. I’m here to provide,” whether it be through financial assistance, clothing or methods for developing water systems.  

Ariza also said that the lack of a reciprocal relationship, even when entering a community, can lead to a top-down approach.  

In such instances, there is a tendency to overlook understanding the community’s needs before arriving as an investigator or researcher. Ariza emphasizes the importance of approaching community engagement with an awareness of the community’s specific needs and not assuming that external help is automatically welcomed or necessary. 

Torres-Baez said that events like these have the potential to raise awareness about more things related to Native American and Indigenous culture in the United States and the American continent. 

Despite this, putting the spotlight on Native voices has proven to be challenging at the university.   

Ariza points out a significant gap in educational approach. While there are commendable initiatives in certain departments, such as women and gender studies, the overall curriculum falls short in doing justice to Native histories. 

 “The issue lies in the fact that, regardless of the community’s size, the data and curriculum are often not designed for them. Instead, they seem to cater to a broader audience,” says Ariza. 

Ariza finds it disheartening that even in discussions about theories and methodologies, there is a prevalent sentiment that suggests that because we lack a specific population, we should not engage in conversations about it. 

Associate Director of Multicultural Affairs James Henderson notes that the recent lack of participation from the campus community in multicultural programming has made it difficult to both create and promote it. 

The Buley Library’s director, Amy Beth, suggests that the library can be more involved in educational programming and interactive exhibits for monthly cultural celebrations. 

“It seems to me painfully limited to put the material out to demonstrate our collections rather than to invite people to make use of our collections,” Beth said. “I think there’s any number of programmatic opportunities for libraries, and at the moment, we’re not interacting; we’re presenting.” 

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