“Native people are extinct.”

My children would come home from school frustrated from classroom dialogue where their classmates would share that Native people were extinct. They would tell me about these experiences after school.

During class, their response included rolling their eyes and commiserating with a friend: “I am right here.”

 Tanya Powers

Tanya Powers

I would have to explain that there are people who don’t see us in our contemporary world, wearing blue jeans and living in urban settings; that they only envision us in regalia, living in teepees or igloos, or poor caricatures of our people as sports mascots.

This invisibility is not only an issue that my children have faced but one that is also mirrored across South King County and in Federal Way. It is important for our community to understand that this invisibility impacts quality of life on many levels.

American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) have higher rates of poverty and lower median income, educational attainment and access to housing. Our South King County community has the opportunity to create equity for those who call this area home. Access to housing, education and culturally responsive supports can move the needle forward and impact those issues that affect us. …

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This article was originally published in the Federal Way Mirror on July 1, 2016.

About the Author

Tanya Powers, who co-founded the Native Student Success Summit, is mixed heritage St. Lawrence Island/Siberian Yupik and Irish. Her interests are access and retention for underrepresented students in higher education. The mother of two strong daughters, Powers works at Highline College as the director of Workforce and Baccalaureate Education.