Kenwa (Pit River Tribe)
B.A., Native Studies Leadership , Northwest Indian College
Kenwa is worth celebrating – her degree in Native Leadership from Northwest Indian College will enhance her ability to relentlessly advocate for equity, inclusion, and justice for all Native people. Kenwa grew up in her tribal community, but then stepped away to reflect on how to press into walking as a Native woman in a small space. Her turning point came when her father died from the effects of addiction, and Kenwa was struck by the injustices experienced by Native people today due to the historical injustices of poverty and addiction.
Kenwa’s fiery passion really surfaces when she speaks of the attempted genocide of her tribe – only 3% survived – but hundreds of years later they are still here. Kenwa does not take her responsibility to ensure the continuation of her people lightly. Her facial art represents the reclaiming of her responsibility and obligation to use her education to become a resounding voice for Indigenous people.
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We will use traditional knowledge and western education to reclaim our tribal sovereignty.
We will achieve our educational goals at colleges that provide culturally competent curriculum.
One barrier for Native students completing college that people may not think about is the struggle to balance traditional culture and getting a western education. It can be hard for our people to accept and trust western education because of the impacts things like boarding schools have had on us. It can also be hard for us to move away from our homelands and most of the time attending school requires us to do that. Many of us are from remote areas and the distance students have to travel to attend college creates barriers to our traditional, family-oriented culture and keeps us from ceremonies. Tribal colleges provide culturally competent curriculum and keep us closer to home, but we need more of them. I think establishing one in California with campuses across the state is important.
We will assert our independence and our right to self-govern.
The biggest barrier to tribal sovereignty in my community, and for all of Indian Country, is the historic undermining of our rights and the broken treaties that exist between tribes and the United States government. The United States government has overstepped its authority and impeded upon the inherent rights of sovereign Native nations making it impossible for us to self-govern. We are currently pseudo sovereign nations that are subservient to the US government. Over the years, the issue has become more complex because there are more and more laws working against the rights of tribal nations. I do think that we are smart people though and with the right traditional training and western education, these issues can be addressed.
We will tell our own stories and speak our truths so others will know us.
It is important to acknowledge our continued existence and our historic and current contributions to American society. I would like non-native people to make room for us to tell our own stories, to join with us as we share our own stories, and listen even when the truths we tell are not comfortable and might be contrary to the historic narratives they have learned. And there is a way to share and celebrate in our culture without appropriating it, which is important. It is important to build relationships, to get to know us, and to see that we are resilient and we are still here.
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Meet The Students
Get to know some of the students whose lives you are changing.
We understand our challenges and know what is needed to address them. We are the generation that will fuse western knowledge and tools with our cultural traditions and practices to build stronger, healthier, safer communities. We will also resolve the disconnect between tribal communities and the US government and re-establish our independence and sovereignty. We will use our knowledge to protect and manage our natural resources to create sufficient food, water and housing for our communities. We are pursuing degrees that will empower us to strengthen economic development and financial security. We will also lead the way in strengthening and updating our educational and healthcare systems. We will be less vulnerable as people and communities in the face of health crises and natural disasters.