Arizona State University American Indian students traveled with student athletes to Hopi and Navajo lands June 20-22 to bring the university to tribal nations, learn about Native cultures and share in healthy activities.
This is the second year that this Health and Wellness/Culture Exchange component of the longstanding “Tribal Nations Tour” has taken ASU students and staff to the far reaches of the state in an innovative endeavor to interact with tribal members, encourage higher education and wellness, and work on community service projects.
“ASU works hard to provide their student athletes with experiences within the communities throughout Arizona. It’s great to see them reaching out to the Native American communities. Their presence will serve as a reminder to all youth that a college education is a dream that can become a reality,” said LuAnn Leonard, Arizona Board of Regents member and executive director of the Hopi Education Endowment Fund.
ASU has one of the highest American Indian student populations in the nation and is a leading university in the country for awarding graduate degrees to American Indian students. In addition, the Tribal Nations Tour was featured as a best practice at the National Indian Education Association Conference and the annual College Board conference.
Students who joined this year’s tour learned about traditional Hopi perspectives on running, dined as Navajos do on roast mutton, participated in a “Sun Devils 5k Run and 3k Walk” and learned about Navajo contemporary and traditional culture. Tribal Nations Tour participants met with the Hopi Opportunity Youth Initiative, enjoyed a Hopi dinner and learned about the tribe’s culture. The tour is coordinated by the ASU President’s Office of American Indian Initiatives.
Joining the Tribal Nations Tour last year was a meaningful endeavor for Sun Devil Athletics student athletes and staff members who had “an incredibly powerful and memorable experience,” said William Kennedy, ASU associate athletic director.
“The opportunity to engage with the Native American community through service projects and cultural exchanges gave the group an in-depth look and appreciation of the Native American culture,” he added.
Some students are joining the tour again after a great experience last year that proved beneficial to all of the parties involved.
“The collaboration between the American Indian Initiatives office and the ASU Athletic Department is beneficial in strengthening relationships between the university and Tribal Nations. The partnership demonstrates ASU’s commitment to not only attracting American Indian students, but also to the improvement of tribal communities,” said Justin Hongeva, who is a member of the Hopi tribe and earning his master’s degree in American Indian Studies at ASU.
ASU American Indian students encourage youth to pursue higher education by setting an example, and student athletes on the tour promote healthy lifestyles through physical activity. “In exchange, ASU athletes learn about life on the reservation, which is important as American Indians are very much underrepresented in American society,” Hongeva added.