A new club called the Indigenous Student Alliance (ISA) is forming on campus to advocate for Indigenous students and acknowledge the native people who lived on this land before students.
Christian Mendoza Guerra is currently the new club’s president and explained why the founding of the ISA is long overdue.
“Indigenous people don’t feel represented here,” says Guerra. “Pacific seems to forget how it started.”
Guerra is currently working on his senior thesis about the Forrest Grove Indian Training School that Pacific University supported in the 1880s. The institution was part of a nationwide effort to forcibly assimilate and exploit Indigenous children.
“There’s never been an Indigenous or Native American club here, ever, despite how there was a school used to eradicate the culture of the people who lived here,” says Guerra. “They’re called the Tualatin Kalapuya and they’re almost nonexistent now.”
Both the Forest Grove and Hillsboro campuses sit on land that the Tualatin Kalapuya (Atfalati) were forced to give up in 1865.
“There are very few native students here,” Guerra said. “They don’t apply to Pacific. There are no scholarships and no student groups.”
The Indigenous Engagement Committee (IEC), consisting of mostly staff and faculty provides support and resources for Pacific community members to acknowledge the history of this land and affirm Native voices.
Guerra reports having to reach out to various sources before learning of IEC.
“They aren’t promoted, but, if it weren’t for their help, there wouldn’t be Land Acknowledgments or any recognition,” said Guerra. “There’s no reason why U of O has a whole dorm named after the native people, a longhouse, an Indigenous Studies program, and graduation for Native students, and we don’t even have a club,” Guerra says.
Several Pacific students have conveyed dissatisfaction with the lack of Indigenous education on campus.
“I’m sure there are people who would disagree, saying that Pacific is doing what they can, but it’s considered a long way when you’ve gone from nothing to something,” says Guerra. “The fact that there hasn’t even been a club since I’ve been here is disrespectful – to the people who live here now and the people who sacrificed their lives.” — Tyler Burnett