A Native American Experience

For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures. Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society. We also recommit to supporting a new, brighter future of promise and equity for Tribal Nations — a future grounded in Tribal sovereignty and respect for the human rights of Indigenous people in the Americas and around the world.

Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is the oldest agency of the United States Department of the Interior. Established in 1824, it is responsible for the administration and management of 55 million surface acres and 57 million acres of subsurface minerals estates held in trust by the United States for American Indian, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives. Their missions is [sic] to: “… enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives.”

a poster found in a thrift store hanging in a cheap plastic frame in my rental house

Perhaps Tre Riley explained it best when he shared the core values for which his Zuni heritage taught him to strive.

Wearing his turquoise necklace and headband, Riley spoke on Monday at the University of New Mexico Student Union about what Indigenous Peoples Day means to him.

A fourth-year student, majoring in physical education, the Zuni native said he thought long and hard for four days about what it meant to him.

Riley, 24, said he was not sure which direction he would be taking when he graduates. He is certain he wants to work at a Native-based school as a physical education teacher.

When he was asked to give a speech at a KIVA Club-sponsored event, it got him thinking about what he what he wanted to share.

He saw his poster, the teachings he said he read every day, hanging on the wall at his home.

“I realized, ‘Well, I have it right here, why not just share with the people, share with my Native brothers and sisters and my relatives and non-Indigenous people?” he said. “Let me share these values that I grew up with that we still have to this day.’”

Speaking at the student union, he said, “I settled upon one thing that I wanted to share with you all, that I wanted to express from my Zuni Pueblo heritage. I decided to talk about our core values from Zuni Pueblo, and why they resonate with me.”

Amid chitter-chatter of the crowd, Riley held up a poster with several Zuni teachings written on it. Three of which, he said, shaped him into the person he is now.

“Hon dewulashshi’ iwillaba’ a:ho’ik’yanna,” he said in his Zuni language. “It translates to, ‘We will be kind and generous one another.’

“Why that means so much to me is because I grew up in a family where we worked with what we had,” he said. “My mother taught me that no matter how much you have, you always have enough to give to others as well. And I hold that to my heart and I will continue to live by those words.”

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