Portraits of Courage: Native Voices heard at COCC

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To get a complete view of history, you have to include everybody, according to Gina Ricketts.

Portraits of Courage: Native Voices, a live presentation shown at Central Oregon Community College on March 5, examines Native American contributions to the success of the United States, explained Ricketts, COCC’s Native American program director.

The presentation was filled to capacity by students and the community, according to Ricketts.

“Some of the students had no knowledge of this part of history prior to the presentation,” Ricketts explained, “so they were very glad they came.”

Native Americans have been in the Americas as far back as 14,500-18,500 years ago, coming over from East Asia over the Beringia land bridge, and have taken on cultures of their own throughout North America, each with their own unique histories.

The High Desert Museum offers a look at regional Native American cultures.
The High Desert Museum offers a look at regional Native American cultures.

“Many people make the assumption that great happenings were just done in the white dominant culture, and that’s just not the case,” Ricketts said. “If you look into our history you find many Native Americans with great inventions and contributions.”

These contributors include Russell Means, John Trudell and Peltier Leonard, explained Ricketts, who were the main founders of the American Indian Movement in the late 60’s.

“This movement brought attention to the poverty on reservations,”  Ricketts said, “and helped to gain a renewed pride of what it meant to be a Native American.”

Another intended outcome for the event, according to Willian Cervantes, the Latino student success coordinator, was to bring attention to Native American culture, and the negative impact done to it during the “birth of a white dominant culture.” (Coun Cox)

Although the United States is not the first governing body to seize control of land from its native people, according to Cervantes, other countries have “confessed their debt to their predecessors.” The fact that America has yet to do so is exactly why it’s important to shed light on Native American history and culture, according to Cervantes.

“American society to this day has not apologized for genocidal practices of invading…and admitted that they owe [Native Americans] something,” Cervantes said. “To admit to it could start the healing process.”

–Ruthie Johnson

The Broadside

(Contact: sjohnson6@cocc.edu)

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