I am a student at Norwich University which is a small, very small, college in Vermont. The demographic here is not the best, but it’s manageable. I have seen/met only four Natives. It’s sad, to be honest, because I walk around getting the same question– “What are you?”; and when I answer, I get the same response– “No way, you can’t be an Indian.” It’s frustrating because I don’t look like the typical Native; coming from the Shinnecock Nation, we look different from the stereotypical Plains Indian. Yes, my hair is curly, and yes, I’m a little lighter than the rest- but America has failed to realize that Native America is not one tribe. There are multiple tribes and we all celebrate and live differently, but at the end of the day- we will fight for each other until our last breath. I feel like I’m walking around constantly having to prove myself. But, not anymore. I have decided to take matters into my own hands and give the Natives on this campus a voice.
My university offers undergraduate students a chance to conduct research that pertains to their major. I applied to the program and, thank God, I have been chosen. My research topic: Native Americans. When I presented my topic to my mentors they looked at me like I was crazy. “Why Natives? Do you have a sufficient amount of knowledge to succeed?” Little do they know, they have just awakened a beast.
So what about Native Americans am I going to research? Well, that has a simple answer. We aren’t heard, we aren’t seen. The only way to let my campus and the rest of America know that we are still here is to paint the biggest picture of our reality. I am going to dive deep and immerse myself into many reservations, towns, neighborhoods, and jails across the states and allow Natives to speak their story. Not only will the bad come alive, but so will the good. Us, Natives, don’t always go through hell. There are beautiful moments in our lives that are clouded and overlooked because only the bad is highlighted. It’s time that America is aware that we go through the same lives- socially, spiritually, environmentally, and more.
I am currently taking an intro course in International Studies and we were discussing genocide. The leading question was, “What is genocide?”. Of course I answer- “What the Europeans did to the Native Americans that rightfully deserve majority, if not everything, in this country.” Hell rose in that classroom and I felt accomplished because whether or not they agreed, I wiped the cobwebs and dust out of their eyes and awoke their minds to the anger I, and all of Native America, obtain.
I want to accomplish one thing out of my research and I pray that I succeed. I want the world to understand that we are not dead. I want the world to understand that one can try to push us on reservations and try to silence us, but we are warriors. We are trained to fight and prevail. It’s time we all stand up and make a legacy. Growing up, my mother always told me- “Nicole, you have to make it. If not for me, for our people.”
That is exactly what I am going to do- give my people back the power that was once taken.
As a community, I hope I gain all your support upon my journey across Native America.