Group raises awareness of American Indian culture

Daily Sundial

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The American Indian Student Association at CSUN has been creating cultural awareness for almost 30 years, and informing the campus community that the American Indian culture is alive in the United States.

“We want people to know that American Indians are still alive,” said Rosemary Avila, sophomore sociology major. “People are always teasing us, saying that we’re all dead, but in fact we are not. We are not historical people. We are here in a contemporary sense.”

AISA works in conjunction with the American Indian Studies Minor Program to promote the program and the group.

“The association and the minor program are supplemental to each other,” said Jeff Helmkamp, senior sociology major. “It is beneficial for both things to be around, because if one were to fade away, so would the other.”

Not only does AISA help keep the minor program alive, but it also provides CSUN students with a general understanding of American Indians. Through events and meetings, the association focuses on relevant issues and concerns.

“We celebrate Indigenous Awareness Month in November and hold a pow-wow on campus,” Helmkamp said. “Throughout the month, we bring (in) storytellers and musicians and show films to commemorate the Native American heritage.”

On May 18, AISA will host the First Annual American Indian Film Festival, said Virginia Diego, senior biology and Chicano/a studies major.

Not only does AISA provide information to the community, but it also serves as a student support group.

“AISA has been successful in not only creating cultural awareness, but (helping) create bonds with fellow peers,” Helmkamp said.

Being in the association allows American Indian students to associate with others, Avila said.

“The association is a strong network of friendships,” said Helmkamp. “Not only do we do school-related events, but we also get together as friends.”

Avila and Helmkamp both said they enjoy working with people who share their heritage and goals.