Arizona State University Tribal Nations Tour
The following story was written by Jared Massey, former Co-President of the National UNITY Council Executive Committee and current UNITY Program Support Assistant.
One week, ten students, two advisors, one huge charter bus, and the road less traveled.
Native American students and staff of Arizona State University traveled to the Hopi, Navajo, and Yavapai-Apache Nations of Arizona, in a weeklong tour that brings the university to the reservation. Arizona State University is currently the only university in the Nation to provide this type of outreach.
This is the sixth year that the Office of American Indian Initiatives has held its “Tribal Nations Tour.” The tour is designed to reach communities that have a high population of Native American students, to interact with tribal members, encourage higher education and wellness, and conduct community service projects.
One cannot fully comprehend the importance of education, for education is a tool that’ll bring prosperity to our people. The teachings I’ve learn through the Tribal Nations Tour have given me the encouragement to continue my education, with every school visited came a new perspective and motivation.
I began this journey of bringing hope and higher education with ten amazing peers, and two advisors. As a “veteran” of TNT I had knowledge of what the week would entail, but every year has been diverse with each school, so I entered the week ready for the journey and unexpected. The tour began with the Yavapai-Apache Nation, speaking to students at the boarder town school of Mingus High School. There is a nervousness that takes place before I present to students, especially when it comes to speaking on higher education, and it’s a nervousness of what to share, do I share the struggles I’ve experienced, do I share the amazing things higher education has gave me, do I share more about my personal story. Speaking to Native youth shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’ve learned that sharing both the challenges and successes of college is the most impactful.
In the span of the next four days we traveled across most of northern Arizona, from Camp Verde, to Flagstaff, then onto the Hopi Indian Reservation. The Hopi people are traditionally taught to live a simple life, and our visit proved exactly that. As we were walking off the fifty-passenger charter bus we entered the Hopi Jr/Sr High School only to be faced with the entire student body. I have never seen so many Hopi youth in my life!
The greatest blessing is giving back to Indian Country. The partnership between UNITY, Inc. and Arizona State University Office of American Indian Initiatives has created a door for UNITY to promote one of its four pillars, mental health. It was great to not only speak about my experiences with ASU, but also share how UNITY set me on the path to higher education. UNITY instilled in me hope, a hope that my life should be one that brings pride to my people, so I used higher education to do exactly that. The ASU Tribal Nations Tour gave me the opportunity to further my goal and message of hope. With every school we visited, came a new message, a message that higher education is attainable and with resources such as UNITY, it is possible. I also shared my upbringing of living on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in the beautiful District III community of Fort Apache, Arizona. At each school, I saw myself in the students, I saw the curiosity, fear, and interest many had as my peers and I presented our experiences. I learn that being relatable is key, and sharing the importance of family is more impactful. I found myself telling an audience of my own about growing up in a traditional house for a small portion of my life, to hauling water from the creek with my paternal great-grandmother, to spending summers at the 7T Cattle Association ranch in the mountains, assisting in raising my siblings, to maintaining my identity as an Apache and Navajo. The students I believe found comfort knowing that one of their own has “made it” off the reservation. After every presentation I found myself reflecting back to the challenges I faced on my road to higher education, I also said a prayer for the school upon our departure, for that was the teachings I held onto from my grandparent’s.
My pursuit to higher education has been an adventure, and it’s because of institutions such as Arizona State University that this journey has been the best years of my life. Arizona State University and UNITY has provided me with opportunities that go beyond the classroom, they’ve given me direct access to the people I am pursuing higher education for. I encourage all young people to find an educational institution that’ll grow you mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The Arizona State University Tribal Nations Tour visited the following schools during it’s week long tour, Mingus High School (Yavapai Apache Students), Flagstaff High School, Hopi High School, Bacavi Community School, Leupp Elementary School, Tonalea Day School, Shonto Prep High School, Kayenta Middle School, Monument Valley High School, Tuba City Boarding School, Tuba City High School, Winslow High School Residential Hall, and Dennehotso Boarding School.
Arizona State University (ASU) Tribal Nations Tour collaborates with ASU Undergraduate Admissions and ACCESS ASU to benefit American Indian students in Arizona tribal communities by encouraging academic readiness, increasing college exposure, building student self-confidence, promoting admissions and financial aid literacy. To request a tour to your tribal area school contact Annabell.Bowen@asu.edu.