Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Diversity, Inclusion and Intercultural Relations: Building Support for a Tipi Trifecta

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Diversity, Inclusion and Intercultural Relations: Building Support for a Tipi Trifecta

Article excerpt

November is American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The month is acknowledged by the president of the United States as a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories and the important contributions of Native people.

American Indian Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes; to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present; and the ways in which Native people have worked to respond to these challenges.

All this said, without a practice of conscious regard, the omnipresence of ancestral principled systems of understanding may go unseen and unheard.

In view of this, Dr. Jennifer McCann, director of the Indigenous Scholar Development Center at Northeastern State University, counsels us that higher education settings can become sites of healing and restoration that do not reify the multigenerational trauma that colonization continues to engender in Native people and the land.

So, what can mainstream institutions do to create systemic action where we (as humans and non-human relatives) can come together because of our differences, rather than choosing to be separated by them?

At South Dakota State University (SDSU), there has been new energy around developing the language and tools needed in our effort to develop the moral courage to place diversity, inclusion and intercultural relations at the umbilical core of our work.

Critical and hopeful inquiry that embolden us to rethink our participation in this quest include, but are not limited to: How do we mediate learning about one another in ways that do not re-create harm? How do we restore kinship in a system webbed in hierarchies that often births adversary? How do we enact, model and function in ways where our professional work and our vocation as human beings aren't compartmentalized?

As the newly appointed special assistant to the president for diversity and Native American affairs at SDSU, I ask myself: What are the implications when the formation of our approaches, practices and pedagogies are derived from the primacy of place? How does my internal cultural framework have bearing on how I navigate the intersecting confluence of Western and indigenous epistemological systems?

As one can glean, there are more questions than answers in building a "new" campus context shaped by ideal social relations.

Perhaps attention must first be given to the question, do you know where you are? …

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