Truth and Reconciliation #8

Michael Schwartz and Sashay Schettler

How about a Powwow as a step toward inclusiveness?

What does inclusiveness mean to you? Perhaps it is being accepted and respected regardless of culture or beliefs. However you visualize inclusiveness you can probably think back to a time when you felt included and the happiness associated with it.

Inclusiveness allows groups to live in harmony and can help heal past injustices. This is why creating a culture of inclusiveness at the University of North Dakota (UND) is so important. How can we create a culture of greater inclusiveness? One way is attending events sponsored by different groups throughout the year.

Every year the University of North Dakota American Indian communities host numerous events.  These groups include American Indian Student Services (AISS), University of North Dakota Indian Association (UNDIA), Indian Studies Association (ISA), American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) and many others. Each organization hosts events specific to their organization’s purpose and the events range in size and frequency.

For example, every Friday beginning in October the American Indian Student Services welcomes everyone to join them for “Soup Friday” at their center from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. People from both Native and non-Native backgrounds attend this weekly event and engage in conversation and in building friendships. Michael Schwartz, co-author of this article, can recall the first time he attended this event, “I was a bit tentative and outside of my comfort zone but I was warmly welcomed and quickly felt at ease.”

Every year in the spring UNDIA hosts the Wacipi Powwow while ISA hosts Time-Out-Week.  The timing of events and collaboration between groups is meant to bring culture and education together.

The Wacipi Powwow and Time-Out-Week bring people, not only from the local area, but also from all over the nation. The powwow is a celebration of life with dance and drumming competitions, food, prayer and the opportunity for old friendships and new. Time-Out-Week is an educational week of events on culture and contemporary issues leading up to Wacipi.  Natives and especially non-Natives are welcome and encouraged to attend any of these events.

If you look at the monthly events calendar for UND you will realize that the above examples only scratch the surface of the events hosted by American Indian groups. However, if you were to ask a non-Native whether or not they have attended one of these events during their time at UND the answer would probably be no.

The reasons vary but quite often it is that students do not realize how welcome they are at these events. If you read the UNDIA Constitution their purpose is to promote a better understanding of cultures between American Indians, students, faculty, staff, and the general public.

We constantly hear the word “inclusiveness” thrown around, especially on campus, which seems to desensitize us from the real power it holds. Even with the emphasis placed on inclusiveness a quick search on the internet indicates that different groups across college campuses seem to be more divided than ever.  Each and every UND student has the opportunity to help shape a culture of inclusiveness, on and off campus.

It is important for each of us to take opportunities to build new relationships and develop a broader and deeper understanding of our campus community, city community, and all the cultures within them.

Possibly the largest cause of division between individuals and groups on UND’s campus is a lack of dialogue. Think about any negative perceptions you may have of another group on campus. Were those perceptions a result of direct dialogue with that group or some preconceived notion from an outside source? The authors guess it might well be the latter.

It is not easy to overcome beliefs and perceptions we have built up over time. Do not underestimate the power of taking a small step, such as attending an event like the ones mentioned earlier. All it takes is two people to start a dialogue. Will you be part of the effort to shape a culture of inclusiveness at UND?