MU Four Directions, an organization for indigenous students, announced its plans to create a 15-by-15-foot mural in the MU Student Center, as listed in its application.
It released the open application for artists, due on March 8, via its Twitter. The mural will depict an indigenous stylized map of Missouri that marks traditional locations of the seven original native tribes: the Chickasaw, Illini, Ioway, Missouria, Osage, Otoe and Quapaw.
Four Directions was able to secure funding of about $2,000 to $3,000 from a number of departments, including the English, Arts and Science and Sociology Departments, Ryder Jiron, president of Four Directions, said. He hopes to have the finished mural completed and installed during the 2019 fall semester.
Four Directions is collaborating with the Amos Jaimes, Missouri Students Association director of inclusivity, to create the mural, Jiron said. Four Directions works to further the indigenous presence at MU and sees the mural as a major project for the organization.
“Our main purpose for the organization is to advocate for indigenous students and people’s political, social and cultural concerns,” Jiron said. “It was definitely formed to create a sense of community here as well, just because it’s the middle of Missouri, there’s not a big native population here to begin with.”
Jiron hopes the mural will serve as a symbol of the indigenous presence on campus and increase the visibility and enrollment of indigenous students. He cited a number of problems indigenous students face on campus, such as a lack of community and issues with garnering a large indigenous student population.
Jiron mentioned how colleges previously gave financial aid to indigenous students, which allowed for a larger community since more could afford tuition costs. However, in recent years, he cited that the number has fallen to around 60 students.
There are currently 69 MU students who identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native, according to the university’s fall 2018 profile. The university’s body profile from fall 2009 listed 176 students who identified as American Indian.
“It’s very self identifying, so anybody can check that mark off that they’re native,” Jiron said.
Jiron said he believes this poses a major problem for ancestrally indigenous students because he believes anyone can apply for Native American scholarships awarded by MU, since it doesn’t require official verification.
There is an indigenous scholarship, the Gus T. Ridgel Fellowship Endowment, awarded by MU that requires verified indigenous affiliation, according to the Student Financial Aid Office.
For indigenous students, Jiron says it’s difficult to find many other indigenous peers, which creates a campus culture that doesn’t understand indigenous people’s problems.
“It gets kind of draining being in a class and not having a teacher that understands the nuances of having an indigenous identity, indigenous issues, tribal sovereignty,” Jiron said. “I think having more indigenous faculty would help bring more native students here.”
Edited by Ethan Brown | firstname.lastname@example.org