Calling attention to the 5Cs’ occupation of Indigenous Tongva land and histories of activism around representation and reparations, 5C students are advocating for the establishment of an intercollegiate department of Native American/Indigenous Studies.
Those advocating for the NAIS program include Alutiiq/Sugpiaq student Mischa Brown SC ’23, Kankanaey student Malaya Caligtan-Tran PZ ’22, Navajo student Myryka Arviso-Yazza PO ’22 and other Indigenous students from the Indigenous Peer Mentor Program. Working with them are four Scripps College faculty: anthropology professor Gabriela Morales, American Studies professor Wendy Cheng and professors of Spanish, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Martin Vega and Claudia Arteaga.
In 2020, student activism, particularly that of Brown and Kanaka Maoli student Kawaiuluhonua Scanlan SC ’21 was successful in establishing a NAIS minor program at Scripps.
But this broader campaign is far from new; in fact, it spans back decades. According to Arteaga, there was a Native Student Alliance more than 10 years ago, which had Africana Studies professor Sheila Walker as its faculty advisor. Walker conducted work in a liaison position with local communities, particularly around Indigenous student recruitment, Arteaga said.
Elena Nourrie, assistant director of Native Initiatives at Pomona College, is the current faculty advisor for IPMP.
“We are not by any means the first ones in trying to establish a NAIS department,” Arteaga said in an email. “From what I have seen in my time at Scripps, students have always wanted this.”
Arteaga joined Scripps’s faculty in 2015 and recalls working with a group of Indigenous students on similar NAIS proposals. She said Scripps’s new minor is just one small step in the right direction.
“It is time to build something bigger across the 5Cs that is beneficial for current Indigenous students,” Arteaga said.
Caligtan-Tran said an Indigenous studies department would show ongoing, culturally aware support for Indigenous students at the 5Cs, as well as a stronger relationship with Indigenous communities.
“I think it is critical that the colleges move beyond acknowledging the schools are on Tongva land and move to build equitable relationships with the Tongva and surrounding native communities,” Caligtan-Tran said in an email.
Arteaga said that there is general institutional support for the program, but the implementation has to be done carefully to ensure that the needs of Indigenous students are adequately met. In addition, Arteaga emphasized the need for more Indigenous faculty in the department and an assured tenure track for these Indigenous faculty.
“[We also want to] create strong ties with Indigenous nations and tribes,” Arteaga said. “Without their support, we cannot carry out this at all.”