Oct 232003
 
Authors: Ben Bleckley

To be a Native American on campus can mean alienation, said

Beverly Fenton, the director of Native American Student

Services.

“In order to really understand how it is to be a student on this

campus as an American Indian, one who is not from that community

has to take themselves all alone with no friends and go live up on

Pine Ridge or another reservation, where you don’t know the

language, you don’t know the culture, don’t know the mores. Go

there all by yourself and see how comfortable you feel,” she

said.

The number of Native American students at CSU is particularly

small.

“A lot of the time, I’m the only one in my class,” said Teresa

Cox, a senior environmental health major.

Native Americans make up one of the smallest populations on

campus. Fort Collins has a Native American population of 0.6

percent, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. The CSU student body is

only 1.2 percent Native American, according to the Fall 2003

numbers from the Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis.

Native Americans on campus do not necessarily come from the same

tribe. There are more than 550 tribes in the United States, each

with its own culture and background, Fenton said.

Cox said this can make it hard to relate. And while she feels

out of place, she does not feel that it is anyone’s particular

fault.

“I need to be more willing to open up, and others need to be

more open to accept me,” she said.

Cox experienced discrimination on campus only once, at an

intramural basketball game.

“Our team was almost completely Native American. It was a really

physical game to begin with and it could have escalated to

something a lot worse. At the end of the game, one of the players

on the other team threw out a racial slur. It was just ignorant,”

she said.

Fenton does not believe these events often are done with

malicious intent.

“Sometimes things are said and done with the intent to hurt,”

she said. “Most of the time though, people do things that they

think just out of misinformation or ignorance for native

people.”

Others have had similar experiences.

“I could tell you stories about others who have, for example,

been in stores and were watched very closely or even followed

because they had darker skin,” said Gene Bereza, a graduate student

and training coordinator at CSU.

Irene Vernon, the director at the Center for Applied Studies in

American Ethnicity, is also Native American.

“I think many Native Americans at CSU and in Fort Collins

experience a sense of alienation,” Vernon said. “All in all, many

feel very lonely.”

She said there is not a strong sense of community, neither on

campus nor in Fort Collins.

Both Vernon and Cox stressed that they cannot speak for the

community as a whole.

This time of year is especially unusual for Native Americans,

with Columbus Day – called by some Indigenous Day – having passed

and Thanksgiving only a month away. Native American Student

Services usually has a speaker for Columbus Day but did not this

year.

Cox feels that students should take the time to become more

educated about ethnicity when they are at CSU, and that education

is what will reduce discrimination and misunderstanding.

“I would ask that people be respectful of Native American

culture,” Fenton said. “Do not appropriate it or imitate it.”

But Fenton encourages visitors to NASS.

“We’re an office for the students,” she said. “Everyone is

welcome.”

—————————————————————————————————

Idea for info box:

Interested in Native American culture? Register for one of these

spring 2004 classes:

ETCC200 Ethnicity in America

ETCC204 Ethnicity in Colorado

ETCC205 Ethnicity and the Media

ET 340 Native-American Perspectives on Conquest

ET 444 Federal Indian Law and Policy

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.