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October 04, 1991 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-10-04
This is a tabloid page

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Worn Moccasins, N ikes
Beat Campus Pathways
Native American Students' Ty to Straddle Two Cultures

Orlisle, Dartmouth and,
"Very few Indians actually get
into them," Dashner said.
"Especially Harvard."
He said there are about half a
dozen Indian students at
Harvard, yet the college receives
an endowment worth $500,000
for Native American education.
In the state of Michigan, there
are three main Indian tribes

problems under witd e-quarter
in the latest census," Dashner
said. "More and more people are
starting to identify themselves as
Native Americans."
He added that there are "more
Native Americans in Michigan
than Asian-Americans, but there
are more Asian-Americans on
"I would say it's easier here for

A little girl grew up in an
average American suburb. She
went to school where she learned
her times tables and the "Star-
Spangled Banner." And every
November, the teacher brought
out construction paper and
crayons and glue and taught the
children about Thanksgiving.
"This holiday celebrates how
thankful we are to be American,"
the teacher said. "We remember
how Columbus sailed the ocean
blue in 1492 and how the Pilgrims
shared turkey at a celebration
feast with the Indians."

The little girl learned about the
Indians. The Indians who wore
feathers in their hair and painted
pretty colors on their dark cheeks.
She learned about the Indians and
how they lived on a reservation,
where many of them still live
today, and how kind the
Americans were to give them
their reservations. But the little
girl never considered that the
Indians might be the first real
American Indian, or Native
American, presence has slowly

dwindled, beginning with the
influence of the first colonists in
the 15th century. But their
powerful culture lives on today,
in a much smaller environment,
through generations of Native
Americans who will not let their
traditions die.
Julie Bloch, a senior in the
School of Education, is a Native
American. As president of the
Native American Student
Association (NASA), she, among
others, is responsible for
maintaining Native American
culture at the University. She
participates in many area Pow
Wows, which she says gives her
an opportunity to see people "I
don't normally get to see..There
are so few Native Americans on
campus. It's nice to be with
people who understand my
Bloch grew up in a North
Carolina suburb where, she says,
"there wasn't any diversity other
than Black or white.
"At the time my mom was
growing up, my grandfather
didn't pass on (the Native
American heritage) to my mom,
and she didn't pass it on to me,"
she said, "though she always
made me aware I was Native
Since she came to the
University, Bloch has done an
about-face. She dove into her
heritage head-first through
NASA, and she finds herself
actively immersed in her Native
American culture today.
"It affected me a great deal,"
Bloch said. "I decided I want to be
a teacher and go back and teach
on the reservation because I know
there aren't many Native
American universities. Many
(Native Americans) don't
graduate from high school.
"A lot feel you can either take
the red road or the white road,"
she added. "I think you should
take the best of both. That's
what I want to teach them."
Bloch says she doesn't feel any
direct discrimination on campus,
possibly because she doesn't
appear to be a member of a racial
minority. Her dark hair, dark eyes
and fair skin don't scream
"Native American" at her
classmates. But Bloch feels there'
is atgreat amount of hypocrisy


Julie Bloch
within the University
environment concerning
"The University is trying to
promote this great diversity, but
the effort they put into recruiting
Native Americans is none," -she
The University has less than
200 Native American students
(the exact number is not
available). Native American
students recognized University
President James Duderstadt's
stated commitment to diversity
with a plaque that hangs on his
office wall. The design
symbolizes two mountains of
land, given to the University by
Indians, on which the University
was built. Four feathers at the
base of the drawing stand for
what Native Americans refer to
as the four colors - red, white,
yellow and black - representing
people around the globe. It also
displays a medicine wheel, one of
the most sacred designs in the
Native American community.
The medicine wheel, under
traditional Ojibwa teachings,
serves as an approach toward
understanding all people. It points
in "four sacred directions" which
encompass all important facets of
life, as set by Ojibwa culture. In
addition to the four colors, the
directions speak of air, food,
water and sun; movement,
feelings, time and respect; add

caring, vision, reason and
"The spiritual values of
Native American people are
timeless," said Herb Nabijon, a
professor of social work at
Laurentian University in
Sudbury, Ontario, in a pamphlet
explaining the medicine wheel.
"They are the roots for a deeper
understanding of ourselves, our
relations (to all forms of life) and
Mother Earth. Our Ojibway
elders teach us that we are
connected to all things and that
we are caretakers of this
There is a popular
misconception that American
Indians get to attend college for
free. Michael Dashner, the Native
American representative at
Minority Student Services, said,
"It was almost true for a while.
Certain agreements and treaties
had language written for some
sort of allocation for school.
"A lot of people miss that they
gave up their homeland in
exchange for something
(education) in the treaty."
Dashner said many tribes gave
their land in exchange for
government guarantees,
including a promise that their
children would be able to attend
school. The Bureau of Indian
Affairs (BIA) did set up several
schools, some of which carted
children away from their tribes at
a young age for the sole purpose of
"teaching them to be white," said
'The University is trying to
promote this great
diversity, but the effort
they put into recruiting
Native Americans is none'
- Julie Bloch
School of Education senior
Some schools, such as Haskell
Indian College and Navajo
Community College, do cater to
Native American education.
There are also three universities
whose land was originally
chartered to educate Indians:

Though th are very few
cultural features of the Lumbee
Indians, Locklear is proud of her
native heritage.
"When I go there, I'm in the
majority," she said. "No one asks
us, 'What are you? Your skin's
Though she admits she is
included in the "white" world,
Locklear said, "I'm having a
really hard time accepting the
'white' values -money and self
as the first priorities, all progress
is good-- I try to delineate
between those values and values
of other cultures."
The University of Michigan
has five organizations for Native
American students: NASA, the
Native American Student
Psychology Association, the
American Indian Science and
Engineering Society, the Native
American Law Student
Association and the Latino
American Native American
Medical Association.
Dashner said the organizations
are "an offshoot of minority
programs. The trend has been up
- a commitment from the
University to sincerely recruit
students in whichever field."
According to Dashner, there
remains an "overly
romanticized" image of the
typical Native American as "a
noble savage who feels the air and
knows what the weather will
be." In fact, the average Indian is
"very similar to theraverage white
American, except for the ones
who grew up on a reservation."
Dashner added that the
common thread linking Native
Americans on campus is a
"strong yearning or desire to
relearn who they are." Many
students of Indian descent are
"walking a tightrope between
two cultures. The campus
environment is the epitome of
what it's all about -
competitiveness - going back
and forth between two worlds."
Native Americans refer to the
last hundred years as "The Dark
Road." "We understood a bad
period was going to come,"
Dashner said. "The problem
Indians had with European

Man Rot up here. God created
everything, all a part of the same
Big Bang."
The "politically correct" term
for American Indians is "Native
American." However, many refer
to themselves as American
Indians and don't necessarily
prefer one term over the other.
Dashner said many Indians call
themselves "Skins" for Redskins
as a measure of "poking fun at
the people who came up with
that name." He said many tribal
names were recorded in
government logs incorrectly
because the popular name was
really a derogatory name thought
up by settlers. For example, the
Chippewa refer to themselves as
the Anishinabe.
Dawn DeMarsh, a senior in
the School of Natural Resources,
is part Potawatomi and part
Oneida. Growing up in Redfbrd,
Michigan, she says her Native
American heritage thrived until
she began attending public
"When I was really little, we'd
go to Pow Wows all the time,"
she said. "My mom would dress
me up in my little outfit and we'd
DeMarsh said she "got away
from it" due to peer pressure. "It,
wasn't cool to be different. I guess


Many students of Indian descer
tightrope between two cultures
environment is the epitome of m
competitiveness - going back a



BROOKE LUTZ/Special to Weekend
A young girl wearing a jingle dress costume practices some dance steps at
the annual Pow Wow held on campus last March.

Ottawa, Potawatomi and
Chippewa (Anishinabe) - which
make up the "Three Fires
Confederacy." At the last census,
there were 55,638 Native
Americans living in Michigan,
comprising .5 percent of the
state's population. Native
Americans at the University
make up a corresponding .5
percent of-the total student
According to the federal
government, a person must be 25
percent Native American - that
is, have one full-blooded
grandparent - to qualify as a
Native American. Despite this,
many people below that limit
still claim to be of Native
American descent.
"I suspect there are some

me, more acceptable to explore
my ethnicity," said Amy
Locklear, an LSA senior who is
50 percent Native American. Her
tribe, the Lumbee Indians, is not

I tried to be part of the white
culture, so in college I decided to
join NASA to identify with my
culture. I started to feel more
comfortable with myself."
She described the Native
American culture as having
"strong spiritual ties to the
environment." DeMarsh began
her college career as an
engineering student but changed
her mind because "it wasn't
compatible" with her heritage.
DeMarsh, along with
Dashner, Bloch and other Native
American University students,
created the University of
Michigan Native American
Dance Troupe last year. Modelled

a i

'It wasn't cool to be different. I guess I tried to be part
of the white culture, so in college I decided to join NASA
(Native American Student Association) to identify with
my culture. I started to feel more comfortable with
- Dawn DeMarsh
School of Natural Resources senior

A gift from some of Michigan's Native American students, this medicine
wheel adorns the wall just outside President Duderstadt's office.

recognized by the federal
government but is recognized by
the state.
"My tribe is unique," she said.
"They've never lived on a
reservati i. There's no language."

concepts was that they were
deficient - only half-filled.
"Religion is part of everything
because everything was the
creation. All my brothers -
animal life, plant life, rocks...

Cover story by Lynne Cohn


October 4, 1991


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