Native American Issues Addressed
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the quarterly Vendor Fair, what many students often do not see is the persevering work of individual on-campus organization spromoting their causes on Ring Road. One such organization is the American Indian Student Association.
Throughout November the group has been working hard to promote Native American Month, offering numerous festivities in order to gain more exposure, such as film screenings, basket weaving and dreamcatcher workshops, musical performances and discussion panels.
Among the events was ‘Tribal Sovereignty Unveiled,’ a forum led by anthropology Professor Robert ‘Hank’ Stevens, who is an active member of the Osage Nation.
The forum took place on Nov. 15 in the Cross-Cultural Center and addressed the issue of ‘Indian Gaming,’ which has spurred so much heated debate lately due to the exposure of Proposition 70.
Kristopher Hohag, fourth-year sociology major, chair of AISA and member of the Paiute Tribe, encourages everyone to expose themselves to different opinions, preferably those of people who have garnered real-life experience.
‘It is important for individuals to seek out forums such as this to hear the views of the real people who are affected by the issues, not just the sponsors or spokespeople who pay for the commercials and ads,’ Hohag said.
Students may normally feel more like passive listeners instead of participants when attending lectures such as these. However, according to Hohag, ‘students can make an impact by educating others through what they have learned directly.’
When asked why it was so important for those who do not know much about the Native American community to correct their misconceptions, Stevens emphasized the importance of ‘human relations among all beings and [the importance of being] conscious of the social, environmental, as well as interpersonal relations.’
Stevens said, ‘It is about feeling responsive, related, and to care for those around you.’
Stevens’ talk focused largely on sovereignty and what it actually meant to be a self-governing group of individuals.
Despite the common belief that sovereign regions merely function as autonomous governments, he suggested that sovereignty is also a form of social practice that is comprised of collective peoples that typically, within their own community, establish standardized government, territorial associations and connections with those outside of their group.
According to Stevens, this idea of sovereignty is inherent, meaning that this form of government originated from practiced social and public life which dates back to prehistoric forms of culture.
For instance, many regulations were expressed through oral traditions, like ceremonial song and dance, rather than through written documents.
Stevens also points out that Native Americans have always formed councils whose members were nominated or delegated by families to solve problems through the idea of ‘advise and consent’