Self-described “token Indian” questions DSUA’s commitment to Native Americans


Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

SDSU, very typical of forward-thinking universities, tries to maintain a level of cultural literacy. For the American Indian community, that means SDSU provides a Native American advisor for American Indian students. After the recent retirement of the previous advisor, SDSU rewrote the job description and placed the position under the supervision of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, which is an office in the Department of Student Union Activities.

DSUA’s powers that be chose me to sit on the committee which reviews candidates for the native student advisor position. Due to numerous lapses in the committment which went behind the organization of this committee, I was the only American Indian on the committee.

During a previous search committee I participated in for the selection of a minority student recruiter, the committee consisted of five minorities: three African Americans and two American Indians.

But for this search, I felt like DSUA tried to make me their token Indian. Not only was I the only Indian on the committee, I was the only Indian given enough notice to make it to all three of the interviews on behalf of the Native American Club, which Student Affairs pretended to endorse.

Under the guise of trying to fill the position as quickly as possible for the benefit of the students and the overly taxed OMA personel, DSUA ran the American Indian advisor search half-ass. If it hadn’t been for the good heart of Dr. Al Branum in the Office of Diversity Enhancement, I would have withdrawn from this committee and possibly SDSU. With his help however, I pulled together a group of students, faculty, and citizens from the native community to re-interview the top candidates.

Why? Because where I come from, ie. the “rez”, people don’t put 21-year-old mixed-breeds, even those tribally enrolled, on committees to represent the entire American Indian population. And when they do, all hell breaks loose.

Historically, this practice has caused problems with several treaties which were signed by people handpicked by the government and who had little or no right to speak for others in their family or tribe. Each individual controls their own lives and choices and having too little representation causes distrust.

Even in my white heritage I find a great example of people in power imposing regulations or changes onto people with little or no collective consent. This country was founded because of a revolution started because of the anger caused by taxation without representation in the British parliament.

If SDSU wants their keen interest in minority recruitment, especially American Indian students, to pay off, they need to learn from this embarassment and try harder to involve American Indians in the programs which directly concern us. Monday may have been Native American Day, but truly, even at SDSU, every other day belongs to the white man and DSUA.

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