“In 1492, Columbus was lost at sea, and we discovered him”
Said Michelle Sky Walker as she began to speak about genocide amongst Native Americans, and other issues they have to deal with.
A funny comment to open dialogue about a serious issue and an often unheard issue in the first of a new program from the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion division titled Doane Dialogues.
The topic of the first dialogue was Native American Heritage Month: Leaving a Legacy. The speaker, Michelle Sky Walker, a local activist and member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska has been speaking and fighting for Native American rights since she was 17.
“An activist to me is about your heart and having compassion for others. I know how it feels to be oppressed and judged by the color of my skin. I wouldn't want others to feel oppression like I do. I do what I can to help change that,” Sky Walker said.
But she really aimed to make others aware of the issue of missing indigenous women in America.
Over 5,700 American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls are reported missing as of 2016, but only 116 of those cases were logged with the Department of Justice according to the National Crime Information Center.
She knows that most people aren’t aware of this issue because they were never taught to care about Native American Issues.
“Everyone is taught not to care about Native American issues. It's in our educational system, Political and Social infrastructure. Most Americans don’t feel guilty for standing on Stolen Land, because they are taught not too. If you’re taught there was never a problem, then you will never try to fix it,” Sky Walker said.
Sky Walker continued noting that it’s easier for people not to care because “it’s easier to see us as animals rather than see us as humans.”
Doane Dialogue gave students and faculty to talk about this difficult subject and do as Sky Walker suggested to “think outside the box”.
There’s a difference between discussion, debate, and dialogue.
Dialogue allows people to broaden their perspectives, and think outside of their own viewpoints.
The DEI division sees the dialogues as “a program that engages Doane students in authentic, meaningful, and compassionate dialogue on differences and commonalities on the important issues of our time.”
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialist, Suzannah Rogan wanted students, faculty, and staff to have an open space for dialogue and have dialogue that made students think outside of their own viewpoints.
Senior Gabby Contreras also believes it’s important to have these types of learning experiences outside of the classroom.
“You don’t really get diverse perspectives growing up in small-town Nebraska. We don’t have that much exposure to diversity,” said Contreras.
Having dialogue allows students, faculty, and staff to have these difficult conversations and open their minds to new perspectives.
Rogan said that Sky Walker's words “burst the bubble” for some members of the audience as they realized the history and experiences of Native American people.
She sees that today people aren’t responsible for what happened in the past, but they have a responsibility to talk about it and take part in healing the damages of the past.
Michelle hoped that her audience accomplished that on Wednesday.
“I want people to get outside of their box and think for themselves. To break their own norms and start making a change within themselves first,” Sky Walker said. Change is a process of growth and it's never easy but it's simple to do.”
Doane Dialogue plans to have more events in the future and plans to do an event next semester starting with black history month.