On a campus noticeably lacking in indigenous students and awareness of their cultures, according to Emma Schurink ’17, one student organization is seeking to change the conversation.
Indigenous Nations at Kenyon (INK) formed in 2014 to increase awareness about indigenous populations and issues on campus. On Tuesday, three of its members gave a presentation, “Our Experiences in Native Communities,” as part of Native American Heritage Month to share their stories of living and working with native populations. Approximately 40 students, professors and community members attended the panel.
During the talk, Hannah Ewing ’16 spoke about her interest in rural health care, something she said is an especially important concern for native populations, as many live in rural areas. Ewing also discussed her experiences in health clinics that serve both native and non-native individuals in California and Montana. In these settings, she learned a great deal about the difference between urban and rural medicine. For Emma Schurink ’17, who has spent her recent summers at Camp Leslie Marrowbone working with Lakota Sioux from the Cheyenne River Reservation, her experience has been all about building relationships with the children she has met. Manny Loley ’16 discussed his experience as a native student and his transition from living in the Navajo Nation in New Mexico prior to his arrival at Kenyon to life on the Hill.
“When I first came to Kenyon, it was a very isolating experience because nobody could really identify with my values or what I believed in or my experiences,” Loley said. “So INK kind of serves as the impetus for pushing Kenyon to actively recruit native students and to actually think about native studies in higher education.” He founded INK when he came to Kenyon.
Loley said a representative from the Office of Admissions visited boarding schools geared toward native students last year in New Mexico, and that Admissions is giving more attention to rural areas where many native students reside. Though admissions is actively recruiting in these populations more now than in the past, Schurink said there remains a lack of indigenous presence on campus.
“I think that we definitely are lacking,” Schurink said. “But Manny has really made a big step by starting Indigenous Nations at Kenyon … and I think we’re slowly getting our voice out there, and hopefully this talk will have a bigger impact than we have [had] in the past.”
One of INK’s goals is the creation of a Native American studies concentration at Kenyon. This semester the College offered two classes that focus on Native American topics, and as far as the advent of a concentration goes, “it’s only been a conversation” so far, Loley said.
Native American Heritage Month continues through the end of November. Today at 4:15 p.m., INK is screening a video associated with the Pueblo Food Experience, a movement in which native peoples volunteer to eat only foods native to their regions, in the Community Foundation Theater in the Gund Gallery.