Tori (Yurok Tribe)
B.S. Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, UC Davis
Tori is worth celebrating – college has really inspired Tori’s growth, both as a student and a Native woman, giving her space to form her own worldview including her cultural and spiritual perspectives. She’s committed to learning both Yurok and Karuk languages, as she believes “language revitalization and reclamation create a way to overcome erasure and genocide, as language is a pillar of being human.”
Currently a junior, she is preparing herself to tackle plastic waste, which she finds troubling. Tori grew up in a remote area in Eureka, California and was always connected to nature and the land, which fostered her passion for studying how living organisms and systems interact with and are changed by surrounding environments. Tori believes “the problem is the solution” and plans to use her education to develop a pathway to zero waste and lobbying for policy for healthier people and land.
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My generation will create our own path to reclaiming our heritage.
For a lot of Native people of my generation, we are growing up and revitalizing ancestral traditions in a way that didn’t happen before because it was illegal and colonization and discrimination kept us from it. My generation has the same goal as many generations before us – to create a good future for the next generation. But now we can go about it in new and different ways and we have such a strong sense of who we are and a freedom to express ourselves. We are sharing ideas, thoughts, tools, and dreams for our futures. We are holding valuable discourse, sharing art, and learning from each other’s lived experiences. We’re finding new methods of engaging and organizing, and sharing with each other in impactful, meaningful ways.
We will develop innovative solutions so more Native students can attend college.
I live in the biggest city in my county, but it still only has 30,000 people. It’s about the same size as the university I go to. Our remote location helped many of us maintain our tribal culture like traditional food practices and our most important ceremonies, but our remote location has also created barriers to completing college. Even though financial obstacles are the biggest barriers to completing college for students across the country and especially in Indian Country, for me and for other Native scholars, there are other barriers as well. Sometimes, people can’t apply to college because of application fees and a lot of people don’t know financial aid is available. And then living far from family and not seeing your culture represented at your school can be so hard.
We will re-establish our tribal sovereignty and independence.
Still to this day the US government keeps us from having the true sovereignty we fight for. We have had to try to completely rebuild our world, but with the control they still have over our resources, our land, and our water, they keep us from being able to. The management of the dams the US government created has caused a host of ecological problems, the most striking of which is the 90% decline in the endemic salmon population. The government continues to exploit the lifeblood of our culture – the river – and deny us the sovereignty we need to care for its health. So as of today, the biggest barrier to our sovereignty is still having the US government maintain ownership of the river. But by our wisdom, they can’t own it, no one can. The river is its own being.
Celebrate Native American Heritage Month
Native American Heritage Month is a time for everyone to recognize tribal peoples. The best way for non-Native people to celebrate this month is to educate yourself about Native people by reading Native authors like Joy Harjo or Tommy Orange or watching movies created by Native people. You can also learn about the land you live on, the environment, and the indigenous peoples who inhabited and cared for the land for thousands of years. Our ancestors took care of the land and kept it safe and healthy for us. Now today, tribal people are still here and we are still trying to take care of it for this generation and the generations to come.
Treaty rights and misperception
One common misperception about Native people is that the government provides things to us for free, like education and healthcare and that isn’t true. Some people receive assistance, but it isn’t just given to us by the government, we have to provide for ourselves and our communities and support each other. Another really common misperception is people only thinking of us from what they see in movies or textbooks and not as individuals. That is a misperception that is perpetuated by the government. I come from a federally recognized tribe in California, but there are a lot of tribes who aren’t federally recognized and it’s traumatizing for them because it’s like they have the highest authority in this country telling them “Oh, yeah. You don’t exist as a people.”
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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.