Hi! I’m your friendly-neighborhood-brown-person, and I’m here because I’m disappointed with this school and the ways in which Native American and other minority students struggle at the hands of this institution.
As an Indigenous student and member of the Crow Tribe, I’ve been witness to blatant ignorance when it comes to my culture, values and experiences. My peers and I have been tasked with educating our professors, advisers, administration and non-Native classmates on our histories and what it means to be an Indigenous person, all while still being students ourselves.
I’m writing this column because Indigenous and minority representation is important to me, and I have seen too little of it at the University of Montana. We’ve made progress over the last decade, but there is still so much we can do better. It’s impossible to move forward if people aren’t aware of the issues we still face.
Missoula is a fairly progressive place, and people tend to be relatively receptive to issues that need fixing in the world. However, it is far from perfect, and we have a slew of things to talk about this upcoming year. I won’t spoon-feed to you why you shouldn’t wear a warbonnet if you’re non-Native, or try to convince you that a sports team with an Indian logo is offensive. I’m sorry, white people. I’m not here to babysit. I’m here to talk about things happening on campus, in this city or in this country affecting Indigenous people, and what can be done to move forward and activate change.
While anyone can tell stories, I find great value in stories told by those who have a meaningful understanding of the community and issue. Most often, that means people from that place. I believe an understanding of culture and history is a crucial tool lost on many writers when it comes to Indigenous people and minority groups. This impedes their ability to tell the stories of these communities in a respectful and accurate way.
When people like me, from communities like mine, pick up the torch and decide to take control of our own stories, we are showing the world the truth of our lives and empowering our people to do the same. I’m here to help my fellow minority students find a place on this campus, a place where their voices won’t be smothered in white guilt and unsolicited “ally” speeches.
This matters to me because I am in my fourth year here at UM and still deal with expectations imposed on me by “POC stereotypes.” This includes (but is not limited to) tokenism, microaggressions, generalization and plain ignorance around what an Indigenous person is. It’s 2019, and if we are going to be the inclusive and diverse liberal university we claim to be, we need to start talking about these things and giving our minority students a place here.