Visibility weighs on minds of students and faculty in AIS program

Map by: Rebecca Kottke

Map by: Rebecca Kottke

Sovereignty is a word that has different meanings in different contexts. To those who are part of American Indian nations, the word has a simple meaning: self-governance.

Department head of American Indian studies (AIS), Jill Doerfler, is part of the White Earth Ojibwe tribe. She tries to emphasize the growing diversity among American Indian nations through the program.

“One of the number one things that we want to get across to all students is that American Indian nations continue to exist and operate today,” Doerfler said.

The American Indian studies program has a core focus of tribal sovereignty, which in simple terms means the inherent authority of native tribes to govern themselves within the borders of the United States.  The program gives students an insight into how to protect nations and tribes that pre-exist the United States, according to Doerfler.

“Our status as American Indians is based on sovereignty and nationhood, as opposed to race,” Doerfler said. “Visibility for native people is different than others.”

For American Indian studies professor Linda LeGarde Grover, her heritage is part of her everyday experience.

“Every day is native day to me,” Grover said.

Grover is part of the Bois Forte Ojibwe tribe. She does not hold any expectations of the Duluth community to know her heritage, but can find explaining it repetitive. The exhaust does not prevent her from doing outreach in the community, however.

“I was born here,” Grover said. “This is the community I've always known.”

Reilly Manzer is a junior studying secondary education and Ojibwe language. As the president of the Anishinaabe Student Organization, he believes that sometimes the campus community can be ignorant to Native cultures.

“One of the pillars of our organization is to start conversations and education on indigeneity,” Manzer said.

According to Manzer, ASO members invite students of all walks of life to come to their cube to talk about their culture.