On Nov. 16, Point Loma Nazarene University’s Cup Of Culture hosted a discussion on the uniqueness of the Native American experience. Guest speaker and Americorps teacher Elijah Bonde shared his experience as a member of the Te-Moak tribe, a federally recognized tribe within Nevada.
Bonde began his discussion with an art activity, where Cup of Culture attendees created artwork that modeled Navajo sandpainting. He explained it as a tradition that originated in the Navajo tribe. It was a form of art that was used in medicine. It was a practice that involved painting while intentionally thinking of the medicine that a tribe member or their family needed. This was a way to connect to the spirit realm and receive medicine from tribe members’ ancestors.
Bonde said his mother remembers the Indigenous boarding schools that her older siblings attended, which served to convert Indigenous children to American culture.
“My mother was too young to go to the boarding schools, but she briefly remembers the bus coming to pick up her older siblings,” Bonde said during the event.
Bonde shared why students aren’t taught about the negative effects of these boarding schools in many American curriculums.
“For some reason, America just likes to erase its mistakes,” Bonde said. “Our educational system is pretty good at hiding the bad things we’ve done.”
Bonde told the story of how his grandmother left their reservation in Nevada and the story of her isolation after leaving the reservation.
“My grandmother didn’t teach my mom the language because of how shunned she was after leaving,” Bonde said.
Bonde shared his experience in talking about Indigenous people and their lack of visibility in society.
“We always talk about Native Americans historically, never presently,” Bonde said. “You need to remember we’re here. I’m here. We need to find ways for voices to come to the table and create space.”
Bonde said that not all Indigenous people look alike and we as a society need to start uplifting their voices to create change and end the stigma that Indigenous people are in the past.
Maya Walker, director of Multicultural and International Student Services along with Katie Hodson, manager of student programs, were two of the four hosts. They explained why having a space to have this meeting is important.
“I think the hope and goal was really to create openness to the Indigenous experience and the realities of this country and how it’s impacted them in different ways,” Walker said. “I think he [Bonde] really beautifully communicated that and I think there was a lot of learning and growth that happened today.”
Hodson shared what she finds most important about having this event.
“I think in line of what he shared, Native-American people are becoming more invisible,” Hodson said. “I think being able to elevate their voices and share their experiences with everyone, the broader population of the U.S. committee never learned the correct history of Indian-American people. I think we just realized that, that is definitely a voice that needs to be elevated.”
Walker hoped that students would see this meeting as a way to learn and grow while recognizing the Indigenous communities that surround them.
“I think the presentation hit different people in different ways. Depending on [if] students were coming here to learn more, whether they were coming to get educated, or exposed [to] opportunities of growth, I think [what students walk away with] really depends on the specific person,” Walker said.