American Indian Student Association raises awareness, honors Indigenous Peoples Day
UCLA’s American Indian Student Association collected donations and sold beaded jewelry made by Indigenous artists at a booth on Bruin Walk as part of an event to honor Indigenous Peoples Day. The organization also decorated the Bruin Bear with signs spreading awareness of Indigenous issues. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)
This post was updated Oct. 13 at 11:14 p.m.
The American Indian Student Association set up a table on Bruin Walk on Monday to display and sell beaded jewelry made by different Indigenous artists, collect donations and raise awareness on issues affecting their community in light of Indigenous Peoples Day.
The club placed signs around the Bruin Bear recognizing that UCLA is located on Indigenous land. Some of the signs read “Native Land in Native Hands” and “You’re on stolen land.”
Anna Tingin, a student of Navajo and Ilocano descent and a member of AISA, said AISA hoped to create awareness on campus about Indigenous issues as well as raise money for the club to continue to hold events.
“We’re just letting people know that we’re still here, it’s Indigenous Peoples Day and whose land they’re on too,” said the third-year American Indian studies and neuroscience student.
The importance of the day is felt all throughout the Indigenous community.
“Indigenous Peoples Day, to many of our community members, is really important because it gives us an opportunity and a platform to amplify our own voices, the tribal communities’ lands that we occupy as well as issues affecting our communities on a public place. … We can come in with posters … and just (carry out) advocacy work that people can physically and visually see,” said Desirae Barragan, the co-chair of AISA and an enrolled member of the Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians Kizh Nation.
Students are often unaware of AISA or the presence of Indigenous students at UCLA, and so it is important to maintain their presence on campus, Barragan said.
Cheyenne Faulkner, a member of AISA who was selling her beaded jewelry, said she hoped to share her culture, including the significance of beadwork, with others. Faulkner is of Lumbee and Shoshone-Bannock heritage.
“I thought it was really important that I learned how to (bead) so that one day … I’ll be able to teach the upcoming year,” said Faulkner, a second-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student. “That way they can teach them for generations to come because it’s really important to keep our culture alive, especially now, so it’s really important to share my knowledge with everybody.”
Chancellor Gene Block tweeted in commemoration of Indigenous Peoples Day.
Block also highlighted a lecture sponsored by UCLA’s Latin American Institute, the UCLA American Indian Studies Center and others, in which Mexican photographer Antonio Turok discusses his photographs of the Indigenous people of Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico, and in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
“So for me, personally, UCLA occupies my own tribal territory,” said Barragan, a third-year American Indian studies and human biology and society student. “I’ve seen some movements – mostly done by Indigenous faculty (and) Indigenous students – and most of the work being done by the institution is very small and minimal.”
She added it is important to work collaboratively to recognize Indigenous peoples’ work and ensure their voices are heard. It’s also essential that the community is genuinely supported and visible on the UCLA campus as it is the smallest group, Barragan said.
Other students stopped by to support AISA, its artists and their jewelry.
Prada Pothong, a second-year environmental science student, said she saw the event advertised on social media the day before and decided to check it out. She wanted to help celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day and bought a pair of earrings made by Faulkner, Pothong added.
“It was really cute, and I think it’s important to support local, Indigenous women of color businesses,” Pothong said.
Similar to Pothong, Nicole Valdivia, a third-year pre-global studies student, said she became aware of the event through Instagram and came to support Indigenous artists and their history and culture.
“I mean, me being Hispanic, a lot of us have Indigenous blood. For me, I know that (I) had a great-great-grandmother who’s of the Tzotzil tribe in Mexico,” Valdivia said. “Indigenous culture is beautiful, and it should really be showcased more.”
Tingin said beyond simply helping it run and attend events, the fundraiser will help AISA begin to create a more visible presence on campus, especially after the last school year was held online.
“We just really wanted to make sure we have a physical presence this year, being able to donate, being able to travel to different conferences and being able to bring that back to UCLA,” Tingin said. “I think just being out here, being visible, is one of the most important things for today.”