The Trail of Tears Continues

Madeleine Kuhn

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Relocated to an arid plot of land and given little to no governmental funding for community development, many Native Americans are still suffering, more than three centuries after the beginning of European expansion and exploitation.

Families unable to farm for an aggregate profit are forced to sell their crafts in urban areas, often confronted with xenophobia and racism. This is the story of Native American Reservations. While many individuals recognize the grievances America’s indigenous peoples have endured, few know about the reservations or Native American livelihoods today.

Senior Carrie Johnson and sophomore Ryan Dubois recognize the widespread ignorance about Native Americans and have sought a form of on-campus education and activism, Student Advocates of Native Communities (SANC).

SANC has hosted speakers and documentary film nights on campus to generate interest in the indigenous forgotten community. SANC’s current president, Ryan Dubois, hopes to get SANC politically active. Dubois is organizing a petition drive to urge the United States to sign an international treaty that would recognize the rights of native communities. The US is currently one of four countries that hasn’t formally recognized the rights of its indigenous peoples. On campus, SANC was able to get AU to sponsor an Indigenous People Day Resolution that took place during Columbus Day to highlight the abuses Native Americans endured during colonization and how it still affects them to this day.

Asked why SANC’s mission was so important, Carrie Johnson answered: “This is a politically active school. I’m going to be very cliche, but a lot of people at AU will be future leaders, whether that with NGO’s or executives of companies. Being in such a position of power and being well aware of what is going on in the country, especially concerning individuals such as the Native Americans, can greatly effect the decisions they make,” she said. “Campus is the place to start.”

Bringing their message to the AU community isn’t always easy for SANC. One moment stands out in Johnson’s mind from the early days of the organization. While she was perched on the quad with pamphlets, a girl approached her abashedly and asked, “Why are you doing this? Do we even have Native Americans anymore?”

SANC’s campaign has brought organizations together. SANC has collaborated with Women’s Initiative to raise awareness about the role of women in various cultures. Ryan Dubois, an SIS major who hopes to forge a career addressing sustainable economical development within indigenous communities, explained the rationale behind SANC’s partnership with other student groups. He said that the issues facing native communities encompass a host of broader economic, social, and political concerns. For that reason, the work being done by SANC should be on everyone’s mind.

SANC meets Tuesdays at 7:30 in the Ward Lobby. For more information contact them at [email protected]