About 80 students gathered last weekend for the first-ever All-Ivy Native American Student Conference in an effort to unify and provide a support network for Native Americans at Ivy League colleges.
The weekend-long conference at Dartmouth College also kicked off the foundation of the Ivy Native Council, an organization with representatives from each of the eight Ivy League schools.
Nicole Lewis, the president of the Association of Native Americans at Yale, said the council will encourage Ivy League schools to improve the Native American college experience.
“Supposedly, we are the most prestigious schools in the country. However many of the schools seem to choose to ignore our own country’s history and the people that perpetuate that history,” Lewis, a junior, said in an e-mail.
While the overall percentages of Ivy League minority students have continued to increase in the past decade, Native American numbers remain low. Native Americans consist of 1 percent of the undergraduate population at six of the eight Ivy League schools, according to the 2004 edition of The Unofficial, Unbiased Insider’s Guide to the 320 Most Interesting Colleges.
On the high end, Dartmouth’s undergraduate population is 3 percent Native American, while on the other end, Columbia has less than 1 percent.
Dartmouth and Cornell have Native American academic departments, but at Harvard there is only an interfaculty initiative that deals with these studies.
During the conference, guest speakers talked about Native American references in popular culture. Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, elaborated her organization’s critical stance on Outkast’s “Hey Ya” performance at the 46th annual Grammy Awards earlier this month.
She called Outkast’s Indian-themed act offensive and unacceptable.
Erica A. Scott ’06, the president of Native Americans at Harvard College, said the conference was a great success, especially considering it was the first of its kind. Other Harvard undergraduate representatives at the conference include Elijah M. Hutchinson ’06, Martha I. Casillas ’05 and Sophia A. Taula ’04.
The Ivy Native Council plans to host this conference biannually. The next two are scheduled to be at Brown this fall and at Yale next spring.