Native American students celebrate heritage


Daniel Kong/Oak Leaf

Members of SRJC’s Native American Student Council host a bake sale in drum circle on Nov. 13 as part of Native American Heritage Month.

Kelsey Matzen, Staff Writer

Members of Santa Rosa Junior College’s Native American Student Council held a bake sale and fundraiser outside Bertolini Student Center Nov. 13, which included a drum group that arrived on campus to support the club and sing songs for the students.

This was one of many events the club has planned for November, Native American Heritage Month.

Debra Lopez, president and founder of the Native American Student Council, started the club two-and-a-half years ago after one of her professors made racist comments during class.

“That professor ended up recanting what she said,” Lopez said. “I don’t think it made a difference to students, but it made a difference to me. I don’t think the next generation should have to go through this.”

The club’s purpose is to reach out to young Native American students on campus and to provide them with support and a place to gather. Adam David Begay  joined the club this semester because he felt it was the only club he could relate to.

“There are no other groups like ours on campus. We understand each other and where we come from,” Begay said.

One thing all the club members share is instances of racism on campus.

“I experience it all the time, but now I’m more comfortable with it,” Begay said. “I try to use it in a positive way. I like the fact that people don’t like me; it makes me push forward and gives me a reason not to quit.”

Rose Hammock, another club member and a first-year student, has also experienced discriminatory behavior.

“In my English class, I brought Pomo baskets I made myself and people were making fun of them,” Hammock said. “I felt disrespected and embarrassed to bring them again, but I was happy it gave me an opportunity to share my voice with other students who don’t know about Pomo culture.”

The Native American Student Council has several other events planned for Native American Heritage Month, most notably a speaker in Bertolini on Nov. 20. The speaker, Morning Star Gali, a Native American Advocate, will talk about the NFL Redskins controversy and her planned Nov. 23 protest at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Lopez is hoping as many club members as possible will participate in this protest.

“It’s a negative stereotype that hurts our children and perpetuates racism against our people,” Lopez said.

Though it is called the Native American Student Council, club members stress everyone is welcome to join and learn about Native American culture. Lopez thinks that the best way to combat discrimination and unfair treatment is to educate people.

“We’re invisible as a people in our own country. People have misconceptions about us and I think we need to start correcting this by teaching younger children the real history of America,” Lopez said.