Native American students reflect on experiences, mascots

Maddy Johnson, Reporter

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After recent controversy surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Shawnee Mission North mascot, the Native American has made it their goal to discuss these issues and make the experiences of Native Americans more well-known in the Free State community.

Junior Ashley Giago, a club member, said that a primary goal of the Native American club is to spread awareness about their culture and talk about problems they want to address at school.

We kind of just like skip over our whole history in classes”

— Ashley Giago

Giago believes certain classes are particularly lacking in including the Native American narrative.

“We kind of just like skip over our whole history in classes,” Giago said. “It’s disappointing.”

Native American students face different struggles than their white counterparts. Social work intern Audrey Trowbridge, the club sponsor, recalled a former student and club member who was actively involved in protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline that was planned to pass near a Sioux Reservation.

“She would drive 13 hours on Friday to get [to the protest site] and 13 hours Sunday night to get back to school,” Trowbridge said.

Trowbridge believes many students do not understand the significance of the pipeline to some Native American students.  “…[I] thought it was important to make sure that people were aware of the seriousness of it and that the kids had a platform to discuss and share whatever they felt about it.”

The club also participates in community outreach. They sponsored an ice cream social at the beginning of the year to advertise the club.  They plan to sell Indian Tacos near the end of this semester. In addition, they are helping with the University of Kansas powwow in the spring and they advise the Native American Student Support Services, a district-wide program, to help Native American students succeed.

Primarily though, Trowbridge says, the Native American club aims to increase acceptance and understanding of their cultures.

Trowbridge stresses the importance of knowing not all Native American students are the same. “There is a variety of cultures within this culture and you cannot just make it a monotype and make everyone the same,” Trowbridge said. “Each [club member] comes from their own tribe and their own language and their own histories…you want to make sure you respect those things and are aware of those things.”

According to Giago, The Native American club welcomes new members, regardless of heritage and is a platform for all students to discuss Native American issues.

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