|Written by Mark B. Johnson Sr.,
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A Native student's perspective on the Metro State protest
Last month, The Circle featured an article on the front page about Metro State and a student led protest here regarding Native American studies courses. After reading the article, I had many thoughts and feelings. But the one thought that has continued to worry me is, "I hope this article doesn't stop Native Americans from coming to Metro State".
In my mind, Metro State is a good place to get an education. My name is Mark B. Johnson Sr. and I am an older Native American student (49 yrs.) at Metro State. I am majoring in the Alcohol and Drug counseling program and I am involved with the American Indian student group on campus. I wanted to write this letter because, as a Native student here, I have always felt respected, supported, and encouraged; my needs as an Indian student are being well met.
Since the beginning of my academic career at Metro State, the staff and faculty I have encountered have all exhibited a high level of cultural competency, which everyone at the university holds as a value. I have been able to build strong, positive relationships with all staff and faculty, but especially the American Indian staff, faculty and other students. And my American Indian student advisor has helped me get my tribal scholarship, and other funding. I have a job on campus, and I have been able to take advantage of some really unique opportunities made available to me as a student leader. For example, through my Native American student organization I was able to connect with American Indian Magnet School in the Saint Paul community. I hope that we can build bridges of communication with the children of this school so they know that anything is possible in pursuit of their higher learning.
The issues that were brought up at the protest and rally are important. I know that the university is planning on hosting a variety of programs this semester and in the fall that will focus on the Dakota War of 1862, and I have been invited to participate in the planning of some of those events. Working through these issues on campus will require everyone involved to participate with an open mind and a sincere spirit of collaboration.
This is only my perspective on the situation. There is no right or wrong. In my mind, people should form their own thoughts and conclusions about Metro State after seeing what Metro State has to offer - after being involved. They should not take my word or anybody else's in forming their opinion. It has been a great experience for me to be here and I hope that more Indian students continue to come and get their degrees to help our Native American community move forward.
Mark B. Johnson Sr.
Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma