Symposium challenges Native American stereotypes


Keynote speaker Matika Wilbur. Photo by Sam Bruton.

By Riley Knight

TCU students gathered Monday to challenge common Native American stereotypes through discussion, education and dance.

The gathering marked the second annual Native American and Indigenous People’s Day Symposium. Funded by Discovering Global Citizenship, the symposium focused on the topic of Native American stereotypes and media portrayal through student discussion.

Senior communications major Jessilyn Edwards, who attended, said other TCU students could benefit from an event like this.

“The majority is not a minority at TCU,” said Edwards. “So I think it enlightens TCU students because it gives them a perspective they might not have ever thought about.”

There are 567 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States, with Texas holding the fourth largest indigenous population. There are three federally recognized tribes currently living in the state: Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas in Livingston; Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas in Eagle Pass; and Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo in El Paso. TCU itself is located on the historical homelands of the Wichita and according to the TCU fact book, Native Americans made up 0.7 percent of the student body last year.

Encouraging others to have a different perspective from the one they usually think about was one of the reasons Junior Kendra Hall got involved in the discussion. Hall is the president of the Native and Indigenous Student Association, which sponsored the symposium.

“This is something that’s super important to me and my culture,” said Hall. “I don’t have a lot of contact with my people, so this is my way of setting aside my time to research my people and share those experiences.”

Hall is a Nanticoke, whose traditional homelands are in the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware.

The event also featured keynote speaker Matika Wilbur, a Swinomish and Tulalip photographer from Seattle, WA. Wilbur spoke about her project, called Project 562, which addresses and remedies historical inaccuracies, stereotypical representations and the absence of Native American images and voices in mass media and the national consciousness.

“What we know is that in the context of our understanding of the world that we live in, the history is very much going to shape the way that we interact with each other,” said Wilbur. “And we know that history is written by the victor.”

The symposium closed with traditional singing and dancing by Comanche Thunder, a Dallas-based drum group, and Tribal Traditions Arts & Education, a Dallas-based dance group.

“I think we have to come together,” said Wilbur. “Our histories are intertwined, our faiths are intertwined and no matter where our ancestors were born, or how they interacted with each other, we are now in a time where we can change those things that we believed we knew before today.”