MU group promotes Native American interests on campus

Friday, March 7, 2014 | 8:08 p.m. CST; updated 9:06 p.m. CST, Saturday, March 8, 2014

COLUMBIA —  Students and faculty of Native American descent make up less than 1 percent of MU's population, but an activism group on campus wants to celebrate their traditions.

Members of Four Directions: Indigenous Peoples and Allies promote Native American culture for a group that is underrepresented in campus life. They sponsor a film series, academic speakers and local artisans to expand the group's reach.

"There are only two faculty members and very few students on campus that identify as native," said member Willow Hoxie. "This group is all about establishing an identity for the campus."

Four Directions meets monthly in the MU Student Center. The organization re-formed in 2011 after a hiatus because of a lack of membership, making promotion a top priority. Discussion at a meeting Friday concerned representation at Freshman Summer Welcome and upcoming campus fairs.

"There are so many issues to touch on that are particular to this group, like human rights violations and domestic abuse," said president Anastacia Schulhoff.

In addition to the film series, Four Directions members are hoping to coordinate more cultural events in larger venues at MU.

Next fall, the group will sponsor an appearance by the 1491s, a comedy troupe that mines its material from the conflict between native and nonnative relations, as well as a reading from Cherokee author Andrea Smith.

Hoxie also wants to integrate native art into campus culture.

"My grandmother especially was very involved with her Native American heritage and the art that went with that," she said. "I've been trying to integrate local artists and have them come on campus or possibly have an event."

Four Directions also promotes local and regional powwows, where participants dress in traditional regalia and perform in a ceremony based on a drum rhythm that symbolizes a heartbeat.

Active for only two years, members of the group say they have received substantial support from other university organizations.

"Native Americans are definitely underrepresented here on campus, but we've had wonderful support from the chancellor and the Diversity Initiative," Schulhoff said.

Other campus groups have started to collaborate with Four Directions as well, including Mizzou Alternative Breaks. Two upcoming spring break trips will see the group advising service initiatives on Indian reservations in South Dakota.

"I'm very proud of my heritage," said Hoxie, a Cherokee. "And this groups helps with that."

Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.

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