Ashford Community Reflects on Native American Heritage Month
November 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the first designation of Native American Heritage Month in the United States. The joint resolution signed by President George H.W. Bush recognizes the country’s native people, their cultures, and their contributions to the nation and its history.
As Native American students are well represented within Ashford University’s student body, Forward Thinking asked many of them to share their stories on the University’s Facebook page. Here are just three of their thoughtful and inspiring responses:
Diana Q: “Native American Heritage Month, to me, means acknowledging my Cherokee culture. Everyone needs to know where they come from. I live in Arizona, was born and raised in New York City, and then lived in California. I am pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Health Education, I am on my fourth class, and have 72 credits to go. My goal is to help the Pima and Gila River nations in Arizona with their health issues – diabetes, heart disease – and social issues.”
Christine J.: “I am Onondaga Indian from the Syracuse reservation through my grandmother, who is full-blood Native American on my mother’s side. I have some Cherokee from my father’s side. May we feel the air through our wings as we soar through the sky to our future — with vision of the eagle to see clearly our path laid before us by our ancestors.”
Timothy M.: “I am of mixed heritage; Cherokee, German, Scotch-Irish, and Slovak by blood. I was also adopted into the Seneca nation of the Iroquois, and the Lakota nation of the Sioux. I have earned titles of Warrior and Shaman. I am also a retired U.S. Army soldier, and doctor of metaphysics. I used to be part of a mixed drum group called Hope, Life, and New Beginnings, but my good friend who put that group together passed earlier this year. I still feel her spirit at times, especially since I have the drum we played on together. In her will, she left the drum to me. [It] was honored by a Cherokee chief; he said thank you and nothing more, prior to that he sprinkled tobacco on the drum. We played and sang a Cherokee song for him as we walked away after the blessing of our drum. With that drum, I intend to keep [my friend], and the culture she taught me about, alive.”
Within the University, one of the most prominent proponents of Native American culture is Dr. John Bathke, an Assistant Professor with the Forbes School of Business®. A member of the Navajo Nation, Dr. Bathke has encouraged students of Native American ancestry to embrace their cultural identities and practices so they will continue for future generations.
“Thousands of sacred sites are in danger of eradication, Native students can’t get education in their Native tongue, cultural resources — important to Native cultures — are threatened,” he said, adding that the preservation of ancestral lands is one of the most pressing issues facing Native communities.
“Without the ability for Indian communities to interact with their ancestral land, in the way that their spiritual beliefs require, individual Indian communities face the specter of cultural destruction,” he said. “And when this happens collectively, with all Indian nations, Native Americans are confronted with possibility of genocide.”
He went on to point out that failure to recognize your heritage might indicate “issues of repression or denial and other symptoms of poor mental and spiritual health.” Celebrating your heritage can be healthy psychologically, and Bathke said he’s always willing to make himself available for any Native student at Ashford who is looking for ways to improve their personal circumstances and their Native communities.
Written by Jason R. Latham, Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education