American Indian Studies

AIS Honors Five Graduates

June 2, 2020

From Scott Andrews (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), Director of American Indian Studies

Five students would have been honored at this year's graduation reception for the American Indian Studies Program and the American Indian Student Association, but coronavirus precautions canceled all graduation events on campus. At the graduation reception, students receive handmade sashes to wear during commencement ceremonies. They also receive blessings from a Native leader or elder; in recent years that has been Rudy Ortega Jr., president of the Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. The reception allows students, their friends, and their family to speak, recognizing their achievements and voicing their gratitude. It is a much more personal event than the University's commencement ceremonies, and it is cherished by many. The students who graduated during the coronavirus crisis are welcome to return in May 2021 to participate in the AIS/AISA graduation reception in person. Until then, AIS wanted to congratulate them on their graduation and let them share there thoughts here.

Of course, the mission of the American Indian Studies Program is to make a positive difference in the lives of students. Our classes and activities are designed to do this, for Native and non-Native students alike. Another mission of the program is to make a positive difference for all Native people by teaching students the truth about Native histories, treaty rights, cultures, and beliefs. If we have more people in our country who understand what it means to be Native, then perhaps being Native in our country will become easier. Students who graduate from CSUN with a minor in American Indian Studies or who make friends in AISA become, we hope, agents of change as members of Native communities or as allies to those communities.

I know that Raven, Amethyst, Ashley, Dayle, and Jason are leaving CSUN prepared to do good work in the world, including good work for Native communities. They are always welcome back at CSUN for our campus and community events. We rarely say "good-bye" in AIS and AISA. We say "see you later."

Raven Freebird (White Earth Mississipi Band Ojibwe), English with minors in American Indian Studies and Political Science.

“Graduation was something I never expected to happen for me. From the moment I started college, success seemed so far away. Since being in college I have changed for the better. I am now happy about where I came from, where I am, and where I'm going, even though that is not entirely clear to me. So much has happened in my life, and even though it took me this long to realize it, I am successful -- just maybe not in ways people recognize. I've met so many people at CSUN who have helped find a sense of home. This is not the graduation I expected; it is a humbling experience to have your graduation taken from you. We are so much more than a celebration given to us by the institutions meant to hold us down, especially when we still have a lifetime of accomplishments coming our way.”



 Ashley Rosario (Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians), Honors in English with minor in American Indian Studies.

 "As a first generation student, I had a rough start to my college experience. Thankfully, I have many people to thank for supporting me all the way to the end. I put in the hours of hard work to earn my degree no matter what challenges I encountered, but I definitely needed the support to get through the hardest times. I am grateful for CSUN's professors and advisors who were willing to answer my countless questions. I am grateful for my friends and sorority sisters who listened to me complain about my endless hours of reading and writing papers. Finally, I am grateful for my family supporting and cheering me on constantly. Without so many people believing in me, I do not think I would have had the confidence within myself to finish. Now, I can proudly say I have a B.A. for Honors in English with a minor in American Indian Studies."


Jason Baek, Central American Studies

"AISA enabled me to understand and acknowledge the original owners of what is now known as California. As we stand on the stolen land, we must constantly remind ourselves and the upcoming generations about whose land we walk and breathe upon. I recall my elementary social studies classes where the natives of California were rarely touched upon. When mentioned, they were illustrated as a bygone past who once lived peaceful, harmonious lives in the Spanish Missions, none of which are true (alternative facts). In fact, the history of native California is filled with dark legacies of conquest, genocide, and colonization since the era of the Spanish Missions to the present, a fact which we must first be aware of.

"As this club focuses on building communities with local natives, we must continue our endeavor to enlighten ourselves and others on their true history, an awareness which becomes possible through dialogues with members of said communities. Despite the unusual circumstances of this pandemic, the commitment must go on. However, I have great faith in seeing this happen as I met those who are genuinely committed towards their rights in this organization. The fight goes on."

Amethyst Salvador (Dine), Art with a minor in American Indian Studies; and Dayle Bingham, Anthropology with a minor in American Indian Studies (magna cum laude); also recently graduated. Their statements and photos will be added if they wish to send them.