First Nations Club drums up awareness for Native American issues on campus

While thousands of Native Americans and supporters gather in North Dakota to protest the construction of an oil pipeline through native lands, the First Nations club hopes to bring awareness of indigenous issues to students at Washington State University Vancouver.

The club, formed in the spring of 2015, is represented by members of seven different tribes from all over the United States. These members are current WSU Vancouver students with indigenous backgrounds and their allies.

According to Brittany Davis, president of the First Nations club, the organization originally formed “to establish a support system within our indigenous community on campus.” Leaving home can be difficult for many students, but for those leaving tight-knit communities it can be even more so, especially when one’s only link to home and culture is over 100 miles away. “We enjoy having the comfort of being surrounded by people similar to us and meeting weekly helps us not miss home as much,” Davis said.

The First Nations club recently participated in Clark College’s Native American Celebration Pow Wow, a celebration where Native Americans share their heritage through song and dance. The event was held to reach out to the Native American community at Clark College. Many of the students at Clark College will transfer to WSU Vancouver and the club made strides to establish connections to help ease the transition between schools. The club also plans on attending Covington Middle School’s annual pow wow as well as the Pullman campus’ spring celebration.

In addition to creating an on-campus community for indigenous people, the First Nations club hopes to educate non-native community members on the importance of the indigenous rights movement and the effects of cultural appropriation on native culture.

“We feel like this is something that needs to be done especially with many native rights being forgotten in today’s society,” Davis said. “There is a lot more to the First Nations community than what the media portrays.” The members will focus on current issues surrounding indigenous peoples’ rights to water and hope to correct the negative stereotypes many non-natives have of Native Americans based on popular culture.

The club is planning a conference to focus on the events surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Black Lives Matter movement in hopes it will bring awareness to each community’s struggles. According to Davis, the conference will “focus on not comparing oppressions within both of these movements, [but] instead support each other’s struggle.” A date for this conference has not yet been finalized.

Native American and allied students are welcome to join the First Nations club. “We’re not mean, we welcome anyone who wishes to join,” Davis said.

Students wishing to join can attend club meetings every Wednesday in the Student Diversity Center from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. First Nations also holds drum circles in the Student Diversity Center every first and third Thursday of the month at 5 p.m. The drum circles are used as a way to teach students how to engage in traditional Native American drumming and learn more about indigenous cultures. Upcoming events for First Nations can be found on the club’s Facebook page.

Members of the First Nations Club. Photo credit: Kelli Anderson

Members of the First Nations Club.
Photo credit: Kelli Anderson

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