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In response to the UNC’s Town Hall on race and inclusion, the American Indian Center hosted an event called, “Post the Walls” for American Indian students to share personal stories about their Carolina experience. Students were hosted by the AIC in an effort to create a safe space where they could express both benefits and concerns they felt regarding race and inclusion, as well as areas for improvement.

Several themes emerged from the messages conveyed in the students’ stories. It is clear that Native students felt the need to prove their American Indian lineage and pinpointed to serve as spokesperson around Indian issues brought up in either the classroom or greater university community. Students emphasized benefits that UNC would reap if it were to increase recruitment for American Indian students, identify Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day, and implement a mandatory racial equity training for all faculty. These themes appear to stem from the campus community’s overall misperception of what it means to “be” American Indian. Not only did the staff of the American Indian Center find these stories compelling, but so did UNC’s Chancellor Carol Folt.

Chancellor Folt visited the office on Friday, December 11, 2015 to read these stories and gain insight on the UNC American Indian student experience. She expressed that many of the concerns made by the American Indian students have been echoed by other students groups on campus, while acknowledging that the perceived need for students to justify/prove their identity is unique to the Native population. Chancellor Folt felt honored to have heard Native student voices and responded to the students’ stories by writing a post it message of her own. The note read, “Thank you for sharing your personal, powerful and heartfelt thoughts and experiences. I appreciate your honesty and care deeply about your experiences. I am determined to see positive change.” (pictured below).

The American Indian Center is appreciative of Chancellor Folt’s deep concern and interest in the well-being of our Native Students. We look forward to witnessing the progress of becoming more inclusive across UNC’s campus.

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