UNL student organization promotes welfare of Native Americans
- Story by Julia Nguyen and Anthony Ainslie, NewsNetNebraska
- Video by Bailey Hurley, NewsNetNebraska
- Photos by Zach Henke, NewsNetNebraska
Since the University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced its diversity plan in 2014 to address the campus’ growing, diverse community, the university has implemented several initiatives to carry out the plan. One includes the University of Nebraska Inter-Tribal Exchange (UNITE).
Since the organization was established in 2013, according to UNL Admissions, UNITE has promoted “the cultural, social, and academic events and services designed to celebrate the Native American community at UNL and in the city of Lincoln.”
The group consists of 10 students. They are dedicated to making the voices of Native Americans heard.
“We encourage students of all backgrounds to be a part of UNITE,” Sky Morgan, President of UNITE, said. “Yes, our main focus is on Native American efforts, but that doesn’t mean we don’t welcome students of different ethnicities to be a part of the organization; so long as they share our vision.”
In the fall of 2016, according to the UNL fact book, less than 0.001 percent of enrolled undergraduates identified as American Indian; that’s 34 students out of 20,833.
“That’s incredibly startling,” Anya Graubard, sophomore Anthroplogy major and Caucasian identifier said upon hearing the statistics. “I’m surprised the university hasn’t done more to bring awareness to these shocking numbers.”
On the contrary, Native American students like Taige Hale, a senior Journalism major, say they aren’t surprised at the numbers.
“While the numbers may be difficult for some to process, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me since Native Americans have been so marginalized for quite some time,” Hale said.
“However, something that I find personally challenging as a Native American at UNL is the ability to practice the Native American traditions that I grew up learning,” Hale said. “When people see different things happening they tend to think it is weird, and instead of asking questions so that they can understand, they immediately get scared or shun what is different.”
Despite the numbers, student organizations like UNITE hold the potential to bring about awareness and activism on the UNL campus.
UNITE was one of the first student organizations established at UNL to promote Native American awareness and efforts throughout campus and the Lincoln community.
Since its conception, many initiatives have been put in place to promote the general welfare of Native Americans on campus including PowWows and more recently, a rally to stand in solidarity with #NoDAPL.
“Being Native American and being a part of UNITE makes me proud,” Sandy ‘Mackie’ Scott, Vice President of UNITE and Winnebago tribe member, said. “My hope for the future of UNITE is to continue raising awareness throughout campus of our efforts as a student organization while also making our Native voices be heard.”