American Indian center opens, plans pow wow

By By Melissa Oveson

By Melissa Oveson

The American Indian Resource Center, located north of Fort Douglas, has quickly become a safe haven for American Indian students who have sought to further their education at the U. The center is beginning to flourish after obtaining funding in January after a 12-year struggle.

“We have been waiting a very long time to provide leadership,” said Beverly Fenton, director of the center, as she spoke about the group’s struggle to receive funding.

Although the building allotted for the center has been empty for 12 years, the funding provided by the Office of Diversity has allowed the program to move in and fully function.

After just two months under a new director, the center now includes a study room complete with operating computers. The center’s previous computers were inoperable because of viruses. The center also includes a meeting room and a sitting room furnished with American Indian artwork and furniture. Fenton said she is not afraid to get her hands dirty. She painted the furniture and joked that every discount store in town knows her by name.

Yet it’s the assistance of advisers such as Fenton and the support of other students that make the center so meaningful to American Indian students. At the center, members discuss the stereotypes many face on campus, such as misconceptions that American Indians are uneducated, unemployed and all live on reservations.

“I’m amazed that college students still have these perceptions,” Fenton said of ongoing stereotypes.

While stereotypes are a persistent struggle, some American Indian students say the biggest challenge is being constantly overlooked. Dezi Lynn, a special education major and member of the American Indian Teacher Training Program, expressed her frustration that while the U boosts an American Indian mascot, they overlook the American Indian student population here on campus.

Lynn continued to note the pain associated with a “Cowboy and Indian” week hosted at the Residence Halls on campus. She said American Indian students were outraged, saying no one hosts “Nazi and Jew” week, but the idea is just as offensive.

Although daily struggles always abound, the center is a lively place now as students meet to discuss the 36th annual upcoming powwow on April 4 and 5. Students are heavily involved in the planning process of the event and have started making frybread and tacos from scratch to sell on the Union Plaza every Friday leading up to the event. All sales go toward funding the powwow.

It is the longest running powwow hosted by a university in the state. American Indian students encourage different cultures to attend and even published a pow-wow etiquette flyer to help visitors understand the events taking place. The group has been hosting the powwow for 35 years but has yet to receive funding other than what they raise on their own.

“Powwows are an opportunity to interact. We open up our arms saying this is what we have to offer,” said Boyd Mitchell, an adviser who helps Salt Lake Community College and the U plan the powwow. “It creates better understanding and less conflict in the world in general with great artistry.”

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Anna Kartashova

Kolenya Holly, Amie Hammond and Alex Lee, members of the U Inter Tribal Student Association, prepare Navajo tacos to raise money for their pow wow.