Imagine driving seven hours to check out an amazing university, only to be patted down and treated like a criminal for no reason? Well, that’s exactly what happened to two Native Americans back last Spring. These young men arrived late for their university tour at Colorado State University. A woman then called the police because they looked off.
This is only one of many incidents of discrimination against Natives says a Huffpost writer, Gabriella Cazares-Kelly. She recounts her own experience of invasive questions and unnecessary pressure to prove her place in the university.
The Call for More Native Students
Only 13% of Native Americans have college degrees. More Native students are gradually increasing with the help of government and tribe-funded scholarships and programs. Sadly, there’s still much that can be improved to encourage enrollment. The participation rate for Native students dropped from 23% to 19% last school year 2016-17.
What Can Universities Do
Incidents like this are a wake-up call for higher education institutions to take active steps to make the school more welcoming to Natives.
One thing that they can do is increase representation by hiring more Natives as professors. This can not only motivate students, but it also creates an environment where their cultural heritage is understood. According to Education Post, being able to ‘see themselves in the curriculum’ shows that they are a significant part of the system.
Another thing universities can do is to actively teach Native American history and language. Many of our academic text today erases Native history, so it’s the job of educators to correct this. Aside from that, this also allows students to familiarize themselves with Native Americans as a whole to prevent such incidents where they are policed for looking different.
Education is a way for Natives to improve their lives in a society that systematically oppressed them. Institutions need to be more sensitive to the needs of the problems faced by Natives.