July 21, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers restarts Native American Cultural Center after 9-year hiatus

Photo by Edwin Gano |

There are minorities, and then there are "minorities," said Kathalina Alonso, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and president of the Native American Cultural Center, and Native American students fill that space.

Specific struggles and needs of this racial group can be easy to forget about since there is little to no mass media or news coverage about it, she said.

With few students coming to Rutgers with a comprehensive understanding of Native American life today, the Native American Cultural Center’s main goals are to educate and involve students in the history and modern struggles of these transitioning civilizations. The club’s main priority this year is to continue to increase the transparency of what happens beyond reservation borders with an abundance of guest speakers and powwow trips.

Guest speakers are recruited by Keith Ross, the director of the Native American Welcome Center, who speaks about what the Native American Cultural Center can do for all students at the University.

Ross restarted the Cultural Association this past January, after it was terminated in 2006. He already lined up Autumn Wind Scott, commission chair representing the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation, Chief Vincent “Eagle Spirit” Mann of the Ramapough Lenape Nation and Rev. John Norwood, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Travel Councilman, along with many more distinguished primary sources as part of 12 speaker series.

Ross emphasized the financial relief and scholarship opportunities for Native American students who wish to continue their education if they choose to identify with being Native American.

The Native American Cultural Center will also have an active attendance this year at powwows. The first is Sunday, Sept. 20 in North Ridge.

A powwow is a family-geared symposium full of guest speakers, activities and a window into the lives of modern Native American families. The Native American Cultural Center plans to host a University powwow in the coming years that are open to Native American families across New Jersey and all Rutgers students.

In addition to powwows and guest speakers, the Cultural Association and Welcome Center also plans to impact University academic and admissions administrations.

Alonso said she encourages the University to strive toward creating something bigger and to assemble an entire Native American Curriculum as part of the Department of American Studies.

“This is a shame because Rutgers is so diverse ... why wouldn’t it include that?” she asked.

Alonso said she would like to see teachers and medical professionals logging training hours in reservations, where she said people need the resources.

Monica Torres, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and Department of Education Ronald E. McNair scholar, said her research focuses on the needs of Native American Students in Higher Education Institutes, specifically Rutgers—New Brunswick.

Torres, who is also a researcher for the Cultural Association, would like to focus on the admissions and retention rates of Native American students.

Torres would like to create bonds with Native American and future Rutgers students in high schools around the state so they know that Rutgers is a Native-friendly institution and that they will be comfortable and supported at the University.

“I don’t want to write their narrative,” Torres said. “I just want to highlight theirs ... and share it with the University.”

Brittany Gibson

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