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Honoring Indigenous roots

Honoring Indigenous roots

Moccasin-making activity through the Native American Program in 2019.

Nov. 5, 2020 LA GRANDE, Ore. – November is Native American Heritage Month and the Native American Program (NAP) at Eastern Oregon University offers an opportunity for tribal students to build connections and relationships with peers, while also receiving academic and intercultural support.  

The NAP has been a part of the EOU campus since the late 1960s. For many tribal students it has created a home away from home, where they can seek out individuals that have shared similar life experiences.

“Going into higher ed is something that is kind of intimidating and having somebody there that can support you, advocate for you, fight for you, be a mentor for you, that is just the most important thing I think all universities and colleges should have,” said Katie Harris-Murphy, who coordinates the NAP. 

Harris-Murphy, an EOU alumna and tribal member herself, also said tribal students’ families may have faced trauma while obtaining an education, noting that a lot of these students have grandparents or great-grandparents who were taken to reform schools and stripped of their culture. Harris-Murphy emphasized that it is important for these students to have support in their higher education.   

“So, you grow up hearing your grandparents talk about that, and grandparents had parents who experienced schools like that, so I think having Native people here to support them while in higher education just really strengthens and reinforces the trust that Native students can have while going to school,” said Harris-Murphy. “So that [students know] it’s not something to be intimidated by. It’s something that you know you have somebody there that will help you, somebody there that will guide you and make sure that you can be successful.” 

EOU’s NAP has many student-led advocacy projects and is continuing this year to advocate for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) across the country. Partnering with privilege campus advocates, members will hang red dresses on campus to raise awareness to this population of women who have historically experienced violence. In addition, student leaders will hand out gift bags filled with hand sanitizer and other helpful supplies during the pandemic. There will also be possibilities for students to meet with alumni and converse with them about their academic paths coordinated by Justin Chin from the Career Center

The program is targeted toward tribal student success, but everyone is welcomed to participate and  get involved in the Speel-Ya Club and other campus activities. In previous years, the program has held moccasin-making and beading activities.

Harris-Murphy said students can talk to her about support in their education on more topics beyond academic advising. 

“To Native students that haven’t come [to EOU] yet, just know that we’re here for you,” she said.

For more information about the Native American Program at EOU, visit eou.edu/nap.  

By PR Intern Emily Andrews