“Indigenous in Connecticut Universities” and the Need for Community


In honor of Indigenous Peoples Week, the Native American Cultural Programs at the University of Connecticut have hosted a number of virtual events, each scheduled on different days. Tuesday’s event, titled “Indigenous in Connecticut Universities,” had a lot to do with discussing the value of Indigenous communities, as students from UConn, Yale University and Quinnipiac University gave their own perspective on how their Indigenous identities coincide with their academic environment.

Photo by Andreas Wagner on Unsplash

The panel was moderated by Zoe Blevins, vice-president of the Native and Native American Students Association at UConn, who opened the floor for the eight panelists to introduce themselves. In the middle of their introduction, Nolan Arkansas, a fifth semester American Studies student of Cherokee descent, recounted how an impromptu trip to the Native American Cultural Center prompted their decision to go to Yale.

“I stayed here for a weekend with another Native student… and I was still deciding, ‘Do I want to go here? Don’t I want to go here? ‘ Arkansas said. “We went to the Native American Cultural Center… and we were so tired and so [my friend] and i just sat on that little sofa in one of the halls and we both fell asleep around 6pm … when we woke up we woke up smelling rye bread because the students older ones cooked us dinner. Then we all shared food together and we were just making jokes and it was hot; it was inviting and I felt like I felt at home in the aboriginal community which is a huge privilege and such an amazing feeling because not everyone feels at home.

When asked about the research and development process of Indigenous and Indigenous communities within their schools, panelists Kiara Tanta-Quidgeon, Sage Phillips, Hema Patel and Evan Roberts offered their views on the issue.

Tanta-Quidgeon, an eighth semester health sciences student of Mohegan origin, spoke about her own personal struggles as the founder and president of the Indigenous Student Union of Quinnipiac, and how those struggles continued. to surface even after overcoming them. Despite this, she stressed the importance of having these communities readily available to prospective students.

“It has certainly been a challenge, but it makes me really happy to know that now when students will come here in the future – especially native students or native students or just students interested in culture and history indigenous identities – they will have that space to share that and they will have that sense of community that many of us did not have even when we arrived on campus and that many students before us did not ” , Tanta-Quidgeon said.

Phillips, a seventh semester double major in political science and human rights from Penobscot and president of NAISA, outlined the reasons for founding NAISA at UConn.

“I found out that the NACP itself, the title didn’t contain ‘Native’,” Phillips said. “So the native students weren’t comfortable here and that was a problem because we had requests from native students who were like, ‘Do I belong to NACP? As the students asked “Do you think I belong? And that’s when I was like ‘Okay, time out.’ Yes sure your place is here, but how are we going to go about changing that and making sure these students feel welcome here? That’s why we launched NAISA.

Patel, a fifth semester in the history of science, health, medicine and education, a double major of Turtle Mountain Ojibwe and Gujarati American descent, followed Phillips’ contribution with a similar sentiment, citing the need improvement of Yale within its Indigenous and Indigenous community.

“Even though we’ve been here since 2013 – so almost 10 years – it’s still moving forward so slowly, there’s still so much to do, [with] not enough people to do it, ”Patel said. “It’s very inspiring to see what you both did at UConn and QU because you have the word ‘Aboriginal’ in your band title and we still don’t have it, even though we have our bands. longer. ”

Regarding Phillips and Patel’s comment, Roberts, a fifth semester student in ethnic studies of Lingít descent, continued Patel’s conversation about the indigenous and indigenous communities of Yale.

“I was thinking about this because we were discussing our name and the exclusivity [our organizations] can appear to people who are not just indigenous to North America, ”said Roberts. “We have also counted and tried to fight anti-darkness in our community, as we begin to see how it plays a role in our community and in all Indigenous communities. So I think there will always be work to do to create spaces somewhere that [are] comfortable and welcoming and a place of joy for everyone. ”

The final question asked what advice the panelists would offer to potential Indigenous students seeking higher education, to which Samantha Gove, Rania Bensadok and Sofia Saul voiced their responses.

Gove, a double major in Sociology and Psychological Sciences in the third semester of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Secretary of NAISA, stressed the importance of finding indigenous communities and having the courage to build them when they are not found.

“It can be difficult to go through education feeling invisible and disabled, but most importantly you will find communities that see you and resonate with you, as we all here, thankfully,” said Gove. “And if you don’t, you can build that up and be a part of it for yourself and for others. It’s a difficult thing to do, but it’s really important to find these communities because they’re going to make it work better, not just for everyone involved now, but for everyone who will be involved in the future.

Bensadok, a seventh semester in Philosophy and Political Science of the Amazigh People under Tizi Ouzou, shared Gove’s point of view by adding a personal anecdote about his arrival at ISU in Quinnipiac.

“I was part of several organizations on campus before ISU became an organization, and I always felt that the community questioned my identity,” Bensadok said. “The ISU was the first place you could learn more about your background, research and understand the history of your people, as if there was no shame in it. So one advice I would give is never to settle down until you find comfort. And if that means working and building the community and group you need, so be it. ”

Saul, a seventh semester political science student of Puerto Rican Taino descent and president of social media for NAISA, then made a lasting comment on how to overcome doubts about integration and advised embracing spaces that allow indigenous identities to thrive.

“I definitely had this feeling of, ‘I’m not Native, I’m not Native, I’m Native; where do I fit in? ‘ – this struggle, ”Saul said. “But I think I would definitely like to give advice to [students]; as if you might not think it’s for you, but if you think about it, you will be welcome. I had these fears of “I’m not supposed to be here,” but it’s your culture, it’s my culture and it’s a place that should be open to find out more about it. ”

For more information on these organizations and other events during Indigenous Peoples Week, be sure to visit @uconn_nacp, @yalenatives, and @quindigenousstudentunion on Instagram.


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