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Native Sun News: Native students fighting for funds at UND

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More on: native sun news, north dakota, powwows, und
   

The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Managing Editor. All content © Native Sun News.


B.J. Rainbow, a grad student at UND, has been fighting for funding for years. Courtesy UND Alumni Association

Constant fight for funding upsets Native UND students
Time-out Week Pow Wow is boon to UND diversity relations
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — According to Native students and alumni at the University of North Dakota they are fed up with being forced to beg for funds each year from the school for the annual Time-out Week and Pow Wow.

Last week members of the University of North Dakota Indian Association (UNDIA) testified in front of the college’s student government to request funding for the 2015 Time-out Week and Pow Wow. According to members, UNDIA about 30 people showed up to support their efforts to secure funding for the events that have been taking place for the last 44 years.

After several members of UNDIA praised the value of the events and the progress the events make in raising the level of cultural awareness in the region, they were met by resistance from some on the student senate who opposed the funding without a budget.

The Dakota Student quoted Off Campus Sen. Sean McClain as saying, “They should have to provide us with a written budget for their event when they are being allocated that much money. It’s looking like I live in a day and age where I have to allocate $20,000 to an organization just to look like a good person.”

According to former student body president and current student at the University’s Law School, Kylie Oversen, student body president Nick Creamer threatened to veto the budget if the line item funding for the pow wow and Timeout Week were not removed.

“I don’t think that he did do it but the fact that he threatened to do it is a little disheartening to the process. It was really disappointing for the president to speak so negatively of the funding when it obviously means so much to students and the community,” said Oversen.

During her time serving as student body President, Oversen, said the funding was included in the following year’s budget keeping UNDIA from having to come in and ask for the funding.

“We put it in our end of the year budget so that the next year they wouldn’t have to do that. The year that I served as president we created the budget for the following year and included it as a line item so they (UNDIA) would have to come and ask for it again,” she said

The student Senate did vote to approve the $20,000 request after a contentious debate that included discussion of cutting the requested funds in half. The budget is subject to the possibility of a veto by the student body president Nick Creamer, however no action has been taken as of yet.

According to some alumni however the value of the two events is vastly underestimated by both the student body and the college itself, who often uses imagery from the pow wow to market the school’s diversity.

“It is one of the largest multicultural events in Grand Forks and it helps to bring awareness of Native culture to students on campus. If UND wants to market itself as one of the main centers of learning for Native students it shouldn't give UNDIA a hard time every year when they ask for funding,” said Ruth Hopkins a nationally known columnist and tribal judge who graduated from UND Law. Hopkins said that the pow wow provides a significant boost to the city of Grand Fork’s economy.

For current students on campus the Time-out Week and Pow Wow marks an opportunity for all cultures to come together and learn about Native Americans.

“The Wacipi is not just for Native American students; in fact non-Indian students are encouraged to attend. Everyone is welcomed to take a Time Out from their busy school semester to learn the importance of Native American culture.

Many non-Indians state their interest and curiosity to learn about Native American culture and they can do that at the Wacipi,” said Dani Miller a current student at UND and the niece of Hopkins. “The University of North Dakota is known for its support for the American Indian community and its views of cultural integration and acceptance. It would be in the best interest of the school as well as the students to continue to support the wacipi and to take initiative to write in funding so this ongoing uncertainty of whether the wacipi is worthy to receive funding can be resolved once and for all,” she added.

Miller’s sentiments were echoed by other alumni like Chase Iron Eyes. “There is major support for the UNDIA Time-Out Powwow (at least there was when I was President of the UND Indian Association) from the Multi-Cultural Awareness Committee but it is true that we have had to fight for uncertain funding every year. There should be a base amount set aside specifically for this high-impact cultural exchange that most largely (relative to other non-white diversity functions) impacts the greater Grand Forks and UND community.” Iron Eyes is a lawyer and the founder of LastRealIndians.com.

B.J. Rainbow the former president of UNDIA and a grad student on campus at UND testified at the hearing. He has seen the organization struggle multiple times to secure funding for the two events. He thinks the process of forcing the Native students to go in front of the student senate is unnecessary.

“It is always a battle every time we go in front of student senate and student government because they are the ones who allocate the funding for student events throughout the year. The hard part is there is no consistency. Here every other year they are switching student senators and presidents and it is a constant struggle to educate and bring awareness about who we are as Indian people.”

Rainbow said that many people think the pow wow is the only event that the Native students host on campus but that this assumption was untrue and that there are several other events that UNDIA sponsors throughout the year.

“It is just a constant explanation and we always have to prove why our events should be funded. Historically it has always been about proving to the University, to the city of Grand Forks, or other student organizations why our events are important and who we are. We have to beg for funding from the school for events that they (the university) PR the hell out of. If they are going to attach themselves to the name as the premier University for Native student education we should receive support for these funds,” said Rainbow.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at staffwriter2@nsweekly.com)

Copyright permission by Native Sun News


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