Visiting professor talks about life of modern Native Americans

Melody Cherchian

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Nicolas G. Rosenthal, a professor at Loyola Marymount University,  held a lecture at CSUN Wednesday to discuss his new book, “The Red Power Movement in Los Angeles and other Cities in the 1970s.”

The book discusses urban American Indians and their relevance in 20th century America, despite neglect from historians and scholars.

Rosenthal said there are not enough books on American Indian life in cities, and the more he thought about this in the process of writing his book, the more he realized how big of a problem it is.

The lack of attention and understanding of American Indians and their part in modern day life contributes to stereotypes of their people, said Rosenthal.

Rosenthal’s largest argument was that historians must focus on American Indians in cities to properly represent the race.

“When we imagine American Indians, the thought of cities should pop up just as often as the thought of reservations,” Rosenthal said.

The book discussion mainly focused on the grassroots movement and American Indian activism that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. In particular, Rosenthal discussed the Red Power Movement of American Indians. The protests of American Indian occupiers throughout the years called attention to their concerns and forced the government to pay heed, said Rosenthal.

Another reason to study American Indians in cities, Rosenthal said, is that historians see them as remnants of the past and not part of 20th century America. Historians regard them as isolated, mentioning them only in rural life.

“The goal tonight is to show American Indians are everywhere and very much modern people who have adapted to modern life,” Rosenthal said. “They are our co-workers, fellow students, and colleagues.”

Zoie Kujawa, 19, a sophomore major in gender and women’s studies, attended the lecture not only for extra credit in her history class, but also to learn about American Indians and their history.

“Their experience isn’t known very much,” said Kujawa. “I think it’s an interesting story to hear.”

Kevin Guay, 29, a senior history major, saw the experience as a bonus.

“Being a history major, I’m hoping the discussion and information tonight applies to what I learned in class,” said Guay.

The discussion ended with an  opportunity for students and faculty to ask Rosenthal questions, buy a copy of his book and get it signed.

Jonathan Moreno, 20, a junior communications major, said he enjoyed the lecture.

“I actually found the topic interesting and learned from it,” said Moreno. “I didn’t know L.A. has the largest number of American Indians in cities.”

According to Josh Sides, the Whitsett professor of California studies at CSUN, every fall and spring semester, the faculty holds a seminar to discuss Californian history.

“Our general goal is to get the audience interested in American history,” Sides said. “But tonight, in specific, we are hoping to show what Native American life looks like in the 20th century. Historians tend to stop mentioning American Indians because of their decreased numbers in population.”