NCORE Conference 2014
On May 26th I flew to Indianapolis, Indiana to attend the 27th Annual National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education with fellow University of Notre Dame students and faculty. This was my first time attending NCORE and hopefully not my last.I was approached by Notre Dame Faculty to attend NCORE as a representative of our Native American Student Association. As the current co-president of NASA I thought this would be a great opportunity to become more involved in campus affairs and educate myself on current issues. As the date approached, I was in contact with past NCORE student attendees and asked their opinion about the conference. Their reviews of the conference set a high bar and made me skeptical of how true their memory was. When I arrived at the JW Marriot Hotel I was welcomed by very friendly staff who gave me my nametag along with my Program & Resource Guide. The weekend was already off to a great start and I thought maybe the past NCORE students did remember correctly.
I had shared a room with a fellow Notre Dame student for the duration of the conference. I had never met her before that day and by the end of the week I was able to have the pleasure of calling her my friend. We flipped through our programs together circling which sessions we wanted to attend throughout the week and had to make the hard decisions when we were stuck choosing between two or more options during one slot time. I was impressed with the amount of information in our programs. Any question either of us had was answered in our neatly bound programs.
When I agreed to go to NCORE I signed up for a Pre-Conference Institute session called Social Justice Training Module for American Indian Students: A View from the Inside. I expected the room to fill up and to only be a face that my neighbor would remember. My expectation was wrong; the room had only fifteen people in attendance and by the end of the two day session I knew everyone and everyone knew me. We became so close and supportive of each other that we decided we wanted to continue our discussions even after the conference. The first half of the conference was focused on our own selves and reflecting on who exactly we are. We can’t help others find themselves and become strong if we ourselves don’t know ourselves. The second half of the session was about sharing our personal hardships of social injustice on our campuses, work offices and in everyday life. I was able to give advice about how I handle it and I also received great advice on how I could handle situations better. There is certainly a lot of information that I want to tell NASA at Notre Dame members about. Some of these experiences were very emotional and personal to each person and they gave me permission to share their stories but out of respect I don’t want to put them down on paper. At my discretion I’ll verbally share our stories at the appropriate time.
Throughout the week I attended other great sessions that if I wrote about all of them I’ll be writing all day but one I have to mention was Exploring the Intersection: American Indians and African Americans. This was a short session that by the end was decided that it definitely needs to be at least a half a day session. Thirty to forty people showed up for this session and by the time we went around with introductions and were asked a few questions the time was up. This again was an emotional session because you could hear the confusion and hurt in their voices when answering the posed questions. I myself was very moved by stories that rang true for me too and I was surprised by how many I was able to relate to. The two women leading the discussion were prepared to give us a history of important events such as the Trail of Tears and about people like President Jackson and the Buffalo soldiers. This tragic time in our past influences us still today because the voices in that room were cracking. I would like to bring this to the attention to our campus. A lot of people in that room were nervous to claim their Native American heritage because of the hype around Native Americans today. They didn’t want to offend and they were given positive feedback that I’d like to share. I know there is not a lot of people on campus who claim being Native American or if they do they claim “a drop” but there are those who like the people in that room who were confused on how to go about exploring another side of their heritage. There may be some on our campus who need a little encouraging. I’m looking forward to more members in NASA at Notre Dame,
While I going to the sessions and activities throughout the week I tried to create contacts and to see who I would like to see on our campus. People who I thought were good speakers or who had a great message would get filed away in my head for later. The people on that list I made is Heather Kind-Keppel from the University of Wisconsin. She is passionately involved with spreading the word of social injustice and works to end it one talk at a time. She is very personable and easy to feel comfortable around given the weight of the issues she talks about. The second person I want to mention is Keynote Speaker Vandana Shiva, Philosopher, Environmental Activist, Eco-femist. I loved her speech. She had a great message and after she stepped off the stage I sent a reminder to myself that I have to tell my family about her. The third person I recommend is Sedelta Oosahwee, Med, Associate Director, White house initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native education Office-Washington, DC. Sedelta Oosahwee helped lead the Exploring the Intersections: American Indians and African Americans session and I was so impressed by her. If I were to answer the question of who my role model is, family members aside, I would say Sedelta. I have no higher recommendation than that.
In conclusion, I want to say thank you for the opportunity to send me to this conference. I would never have believed that I would one day be attending such a conference. Enjoy the rest of the summer and I look forward to seeing you in the fall!