2021 Native American Awareness Week

Chloe Thompson

The history of how this land came to be occupied by foreign people of another land is not a pleasing or peaceful story.

While Native American people have called these hills, plains, canyons, deserts, and vast grasslands home, others came with no regard for them to make it theirs too.

The Nez Perce people have a history of truly tragic stories of how their home was taken. In 1877, the Nez Perce people who did not agree with the laws given to them by the U.S. government to vacate their homes for the benefit of the non-indigenous people were forced to leave.

The bands of Chief Joseph, Chief Looking Glass, and Chief White Bird (including women, children, and elders) trekked through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, reluctantly. Their goal was to seek help from the Crow tribe in Montana, but
they were denied. This caused the Nez Perce people to travel toward Canada.

Just 40 miles from the border, Chief Joseph was forced to surrender because of the suffering of his people and the lives that were lost throughout the journey and previous battles, such as the Battle of Bear Paw.

The history that sits upon these lands is unrepentant. Even though it is such a grim one, it is important to know what has happened here. Participating in Native American Awareness Week was a great opportunity to listen to the Native people.

It was truly compelling to watch and listen to the discussions of what holds a special place in the hearts of the Native American people. Seeing the presentations and listening
to the stories of the ones involved gave further insight into their culture and their rights. Usually, there is a powwow that takes place in the LCSC gymnasium, but because of COVID-19, it had to be canceled.

Hopefully, in the future, the world will heal so we can visit and be a part of such a beautiful event. Until then, Native American Awareness Week will continue to thrive and tell the stories of the people who have all the right to be heard.

On March 15-19th, LCSC presented students, faculty, and the public with cultural and historic subjects regarding the Native American people (specifically the Nez Perce Tribe) for Native American Awareness Week, put on annually.

Even though pandemic prohibitions created a barrier between
physical and in-person connections, the organizers of each seminar created a virtual connection through Zoom. With this access, a key speaker from California was able to share their wisdom and insight on their topic.

The topic for discussion of each Zoom conference provided viewers with information about the Native people of this land and what important factors mean to them and their culture.

The first seminar was, “Nez Perce Tribe Economic & Environmental Opportunities.” This workshop focused on the land of the Nez Perce people and their water code solar projects, along with the discussion of Nez Perce Tribal water rights.

The keynote speakers of this discussion were Casey Mitchell,
Chantel Greene, and Ken Clark. Mitchell is the current Vice-Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (N.P.T.E.C.). He talked on the five tribal entities and the water code for the Nez Perce Tribe. Greene is the tribe’s Natural Resources Specialist, and Clark is a staff member at the Nez
Perce Tribe’s Water Resource, both elaborating on water rights and programs.

The second seminar was the “Nez Perce Language Panel.” This discussion featured the students apart of LCSC enrolled in the Nez Perce language (Nimiipuutimt) course, along with them recognizing their elders and storytelling. The facilitator of this seminar was Dr. Harold Crook, instructor of the Nez Perce
Language courses.

The next impactful seminar was “Leadership Through Serving Others,” which was facilitated by Bill Hayne, a member of the Assiniboine/Sioux tribes of Fort Peck, Montana, and a

“Leadership Through Serving Others” followed, which was facilitated by Bill Hayne, a member of the Assiniboine/Sioux tribes of Fort Peck, Montana, and a faculty member in the division of education at Lewis Clark State College for the past 19 years. In his workshop, he gave advice on how to become a better leader to help those around, and shared impactful messages to those watching to build themselves up to become great leaders.

The fourth and final Zoom discussion was “Sovereignty – Use it or Lose it.” This was a discussion about the importance of tribal sovereignty in the United States and what it means to the indigenous people of this land.

This presentation helped viewers watching to know the importance of tribal government and their laws, and the rights that Native Americans should possess. The keynote
speaker was Loretta Tuell, Managing Principal at Tuell Law. She is a graduate of UCLA School of Law and a Nez Perce Tribal citizen.

Every year, the Native American Club members recognize and honor a tribal elder for their services towards the students and the school. The award is named the “Lifetime Achievement Award,” and the person who received this prestigious award was Mary Jane Miles, former chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal
Executive Committee (NPTEC).

What followed after the award presentation was the raffle drawing, in support of the Native American Club on campus and its members. The prizes featured a television, gift cards, tribal merchandise, a Pendleton blanket, a tipi, and so much
more. The proceeds of the raffle help Native students with scholarship funding and opportunities.