Public Allies Arizona cohort tours Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center, learns about building inclusive spaces

Public Allies Arizona cohort tours Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center, learns about building inclusive spaces

Allies tour visitor center

by Alexandra Conforti, ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation

November 17, 2021

November is National Native American Heritage Month, and members of the ASU Lodestar Center's Public Allies Arizona program gathered at the Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center on November 5 for a Community Space Day in partnership with Native American Connections. Allies spent the day gaining knowledge on diversity, racial equality and equity while curator and member of the Hopi Tribe, Rosalie Talahongva, informed them of the history of the boarding school.

According to Native American Connections, which operates the visitor center with Phoenix Indian Center, "The Phoenix Indian Industrial School was established in 1891, operating as a boarding school for American Indian children by the Bureau of Indian Affairs up until 1990. Through its 99 years of operation, the mission of the school was to educate thousands of Native American children, though we know much of their education involved cutting of cultural ties and forced assimilation to a military lifestyle in its early operation."

The Allies are taking what they learned from their visit at the center and studying Native American history to later engage in their Indigenous Americans Discussion on Equity on November 19. The discussion will encourage the Allies to reflect, pose questions and build knowledge to be better Allies for Indigenous Americans.

“On this particular day, we were discussing how to build more inclusive spaces in the nonprofit sector,” said Lou Haiduk, co-director of Public Allies Arizona. “Having this conversation in a space where White America systematically tried to erase Indigenous culture made the necessity and urgency for these conversations highly visible.”

Public Allies Arizona, now in its 16th year at Arizona State University, is an AmeriCorps national youth leadership organization that places service-minded young people in apprenticeships at nonprofit organizations throughout Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties. It identifies talented young adults from diverse backgrounds and advances their leadership through a 10-month program of full-time, paid apprenticeships in nonprofit organizations, team service projects and trainings like this visit to the visitor center.

"It felt humbling to discuss Native American history through the lens of food traditions while sharing in the sort of incredible Diné meal that Chef Freddie said he would cook at home," said Phong Le, a Public Allies Arizona program manager. "Here we were, noshing on tender squash, re-thinking notions of ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ food, and by implication, cultural practice and colonization—sitting within the walls of the Phoenix Indian School and its shameful, not-too-distant past. The moment left me in awe of the pride and resilience of the Indigenous students, wondering what their first meal back with their family was like when they finally came home.”

Touring the visitor center

Allies learn at the visitor center