Over 1,000 students, parents, educators and vendors from 30 tribes nation-wide gathered Saturday for one of the largest college fairs in the U.S. for Native American students. USC’s Native American Student Union worked with the Inter-Tribal Education Collaborative to co-host the sixth annual college exploration day and the first on USC’s campus. The event aimed at young students and returning adult learners increases awareness of opportunities available through higher education.
“ITEC is devoted to creating pathways to higher education for Native Americans,” USC’s Director of Native American Students Karras Wilson (Quechan/Cocopah) said. “The leaders of our past set the foundation for the future and it’s our responsibility to respect and continue their legacy.”
The festivities kicked off with a complimentary breakfast as the guests checked in and took their seats in the Town and Gown ballroom.
English professor and the event’s MC, David Treuer (Ojibwe), introduced Tongva elder Julia Bogany.
Bogany gave a land acknowledgement to begin the event.
Anthropology professor Tok Thompson presented the late Joseph Medicine Crow’s dissertation to his son, Beau, and Beau’s children. Crow, who earned his master’s in anthropology in 1939, was the first Native American student at USC. Crow was an acclaimed Native American historian and last surviving war chief of Montana’s Crow Tribe.
Beau Medicine Crow thanked USC for the gift honoring his father. His father earned the title of war chief following his service in WWII and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2009. Thompson presented Crow’s son Beau with a copy of Crow’s dissertation and Crow’s grandchildren were gifted handmade necklaces by Wilson.
The crowd was delighted by Quechan bird singers and dancers.\
The leader of the Quechan bird singers, retired teacher Faron Owl, reminds the crowd to learn something new. “[He] transformed so many lives At San Pasqual High School during his 39 years,” Wilson said.
USC’s Native American Student Union’s founding president Ava Burnell talked about how the club was created and why she chose Wilson to be the director.
Keynote speaker Judge Claudette White (Quechan), chief judge for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, talks about her experience with education. While finishing up her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Northern Arizona University, 23-year-old White became the youngest elected leader her tribe had ever had.
White’s son, Zion, films her speech. “ Less than 10 percent of our people survived earlier US federal policy. But from that small remaining number, here we are today, existing as indigenous people–thriving and excelling–just as our ancestors had intended.”
Students walked through Trousdale Parkway, which had college information booths on both sides.
USC’s admissions office was available for students and parents to ask questions. Dylan Goodwill, assistant director of undergraduate admissions, helped to coordinate ITEC. Goodwill grew up in the capitol of the Navajo Nation.
In 2017, USC dentistry and Cal State L.A. were awarded $16.6 million to provide dental treatment to underserved children and teens. The team was at the event to provide free dental screenings and hygiene packages.
Information sessions about four-year universities, the transfer path, community college and scholarships were held in Taper Hall.
A professor roundtable was held, where educators could discuss the challenges Native Americans face in higher education and how to combat them.
Professor Lynn Dodd gave students a virtual tour of Catalina Island.
USC’s Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) gave science demonstrations, including a look at how aquaponics produces edible plants.
SACNAS also demonstrated how liquid nitrogen can freeze and break fruit and flowers.
In Taper Hall room 111, students could zoom in on plankton under a microscope.
SACNAS also let students build and drive remotely operated underwater vehicles at the Leavey Library fountain. Students can place the ROV in the water and be controlled by a remote in the student’s hands.
SACNAS also did an experiment showing how water can be converted to energy.
Cultural workshops and beading crafts were held outdoors by Tongva elder Julia Bogany.
Basket weaving workshops were held indoors.
Bridghid “Birdie” Pulskamp (Navajo) led the indoor cultural workshops. In her second session, she taught students about Navajo rug weaving.
Pots were made of many different sizes and into different styles. The most popular design was the “man in the maze,” a traditional Native American design that symbolizes life’s journey.
One future Trojan made a USC logo design in his pot. He shared that it was inspired by his dream to get into the accounting program.
The Spirit of Troy band’s performance was very popular. When they finished, the crowd yelled for an encore, to which they obliged.
NASU raffled of prizes like an iPad Air, iHome, USC merchandise, swag donated from other colleges, a quilted blanket and two hand-beaded USC hats.
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