Like Becky and Anna, I also am a first-generation college student who came to CSULB and was encouraged and mentored by the American Indian Studies faculty. In the early 1970s, the only thing I knew about "Long Beach State” was that it had a pow wow. In 1975, two of my CSULB mentors, Erma Bender-Red Door and Charlotte Ortiz-Standing Buffalo, invited our dance group to perform at the American Indian Week Celebration in the Small Auditorium of the Student Union. As soon as our performance was over, we were introduced to several friendly students and AIS faculty who gave us a campus tour and encouraged us to go to college.
In 1976, I enrolled at Long Beach State. Within a week, I met Carol Miller, an American Indian Studies professor who has been my mentor and friend for the past 30 years. When I was a student, Charlotte Ortiz-Standing Buffalo and Christina Skillins were the aunties or grandmas to many of the younger students in the program, including Georgiana Sanchez and April Skinnas, the alumnae who Becky encountered at Fullerton College. The way that Becky and Anna feel about Georgiana is how we felt about Charlotte and Christina. Later, when Richard Glazer-Danay came to CSULB as the director of the American Indian Studies program, he became my mentor, providing me with sage and ethical advice.
I am honored to be a mentor in the Partners for Success Program. I cherish the extended family that has grown out of these mentoring relationships. I am often inspired by my mentees. Becky is a good example of this. Not only is she pursuing a teaching credential but she is also the president of the American Indian Student Council and chair of the CSULB Pow Wow committee, the oldest student-sponsored event at CSULB. This is an enormous responsibility and B ecky constantly impresses me with her ability to balance all of her personal, academic and extracurricular activities.
One song that was sung at the 2006 pow wow was the CSULB Student Honoring Song composed in 1995 by the Elks Whistle Drum from Regina Saskatchewan. When the honoring song was sung this year, Becky was at the head of the procession with her fellow students by her side; behind the students were Anna and myself. As the students moved onto the floor of the Walter Pyramid, people came forward to honor them, to shake their hands and to thank them for the example that they set for others.
The meaning of this song is closely related to what we do in the Partners Program. Sung in the Dakota language, it conveys to students that at those times when your education becomes difficult and you are thinking of quitting, remember that your family and friends are anxious and excited about the good things that you will do with your education, remember that we are depending upon you and standing behind you.