The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The importance of Indigenous stories

Larry Yazzie of the Meskwaki Nation performs at UNI in celebration of a new cooperative mission between UNI and the Meskwaki in 2021. The newly formed Indigenous Student Organization hopes to educate the campus community about Indigenous cultures and communities.

Indigenous students on UNI’s campus are seeking to inform and educate the campus community about their people, culture and history. The recently founded Indigenous Student Organization hopes to provide a safe community and space for UNI’s Indigenous students. The organization’s president, Marley Whitefish, noted the importance of creating a strong Indigenous community at UNI.

“Typically, you’re the only native in the classroom. There’s less than 20 Native students enrolled at UNI, so I wanted to make sure that we’re connected with each other. Personally, even just seeing another native on campus makes me feel better. Being around other Native students, I feel the most at home.” Whitefish hopes the campus will educate themselves and others about the importance of recognizing Indigenous communities.

In 2021, the university released a “Stewardship Statement,” which recognizes “the original caretakers of the land on which the university sits,” and “honors Native and Indigenous Peoples in our work on campus and throughout the community.” The statement acknowledges, “the Báxoǰe or Bah Kho-Je (Iowa), oθaakiiwaki‧hina‧ki (Sauk) and Meškwahki·aša·hina (Fox), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux), Umónhon (Omaha), and Hocąk (Ho-Chunk), as well as those tribal nations who are contemporary caretakers of land in Iowa, including the Meskwaki: Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa.”

Whitefish says the statement is appreciated, but hopes the university will do more to make the land acknowledgement more widely known across campus.

“I think this is like a good start, but I feel like we could do better,” Whitefish said. “Like I said, we don’t make up a huge portion of the population, but we are still here and we still matter.”

Learn about us, or even just acknowledge that we’re still here. We may be smaller numbers but we have a lot to share.

— Marley Whitefish, President of UNI’s Indigenous Student Organization

With Native American Heritage Month coming up for the month of November, the Indigenous Student Organization is hoping to plan some events to educate campus, as well as get people involved with the organization. Whitefish encourages students to attend general body meetings every other Wednesday located in the Center for Multicultural Education.

For more information about the Indigenous Student Organization, follow them on Instagram @indigenousstudentorg.uni. To access the full stewardship statement released by UNI, visit

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