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The North Wind

The North Wind

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Amelia Kashian
Amelia Kashian
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Being passionate is one of the best parts of being human, and I am glad that writing has helped me recognize that. I have been writing stories since I was a little girl, and over...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Native American Student Association helps student navigate higher ed

Picture+of+Joseph+Calderon+sitting+on+the+beach+listening+to+stories.
Photo courtesy of Sophia Panek BY THE FIRE – During the stargazing and storytelling event that the Native American Student Association held last semester, Joseph Calderson listened to the group share Anishinaabe star knowledge. The group continues to plan COVID-19 safe events for this upcoming semester.

Many organizations on campus have students from all types of majors and backgrounds. Few of these organizations have been able to include community members in their group like the Native American Student Association has been able to. 

The group’s president Bazile Panek pointed to the Anishinaabeg Seven Grandfather Teachings. These teachings are meant to be guidelines on how to live a good life. The teachings are respect, love, truth, bravery, wisdom, generosity and humility. 

“If there are older students and community members that are interested in becoming involved in NASA, I’d say that it’s an open door for you and for everyone. All we ask is that you come with the right mind and that you use the Seven Grandfather Teachings, especially respect and humility,” Panek, said. 

Born in Bakersfield, California Joseph Calderon is a member of the Tejon Indian Tribe. He recently moved with a friend to Marquette in 2019 and through his involvement with NASA was able to find a renewed passion for learning.

“I live in Seattle now and sought out the elders of the North West tribes and they mentored me into understanding my intergenerational trauma,” Calderon said. “My friend Peter and I decided to move to Marquette. We came here in December 2019 and when we first got here the snow was one of the biggest shocks.” 

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Calderon didn’t get to know his own family history and tribal identity until he was 50, something he said was hard to grapple with at first. This search for knowledge would later lead him to pursue a degree in Native American studies.

“Until I was 50 I didn’t know any of my familial relations at all, I just had my two sisters and my father. How do you relate to all of your family that you’ve never been able to meet? That was a detriment at first,” Calderon said. 

In 2013 Calderon suffered from a stroke that left him with 40% mobility. However, that didn’t stop his search to learn more when he moved to Marquette. 

“I was searching for the missing piece of all that teaching I learned from West Washington tribes and I found NASA in January 2020. Anthony Cergnul was instrumental in getting me involved in NASA. At that point I hadn’t even thought of going to school, it was the furthest thing on my mind. As I came to know one of the NASA members, Gary Trombley, I started to become more involved in NASA as a community member,” Calderon said.

Panek said his first memories of Calderon were positive and he knew immediately that he was a perfect fit for NASA.

“My first memory of Joe when he started to become involved in NASA was when he started to attend in-person meetings back in January or February 2020. He always brought cultural or sacred items, basically to show all of our members. He’d tell stories, play flute music, give out gifts. Immediately, he was a positive presence in NASA,” Panek said. 

As Calderon continued to be more involved with NASA, the group introduced him to the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver, which allows verified tribal members who have lived in Michigan for at least one year to get their tuition costs waived. They helped him get approved for the tuition waiver and he got registered to attend the Winter 2021 semester with a major in Native American studies and a minor in music.

“NASA fell in my lap. I was sitting here and NASA gave me a golden ticket essentially that said go to school, we will take care of you,” Calderon said.

Panek said that Calderon’s story is a good example of how NASA can help students young and old looking to achieve a degree at NMU.

“It feels amazing to know that NASA had a role in helping Joe pursue a degree in Native American Studies. It makes me proud to know that we’re actively achieving our goals as a student organization: being a support system for our members while they navigate higher education,” Panek said.

Now in his second week of classes, Calderon is already looking forward to applying the knowledge he gains in the Native American studies program to help his own tribe learn their language.

“My goal after I graduate is to take some of the knowledge I learn in the Native American studies program to my tribe. The language coordinator is my cousin and I hope to create some dialogue between my tribe and the community here in helping us get up to speed as far as learning our language. There are very few speakers; my great grandmother was the last full speaker of the language,” Calderon said.

Calderon said that the community and administration at NMU have gone beyond expectation to ensure his education experience is successful. Disability services, NMU’s Writing Center and the Tutoring Center have been pivotal in helping him be successful in his work towards a degree.

“For any student that needs help, NMU has the most amazing resources for students who are struggling, all you have to do is ask. I have never had that opportunity in my life before. You people don’t even know me, but here you are helping me get through school at an older age. That’s truly an amazing thing,” Calderon said. 

NASA is holding a virtual open house over Zoom this coming Monday, Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. to introduce their new decolonized organization structure, which takes ideas from the medicine wheel as well as how tribal governments function. Additionally, they will talk about upcoming events this semester. 

“I hope that attendees to the Open House will know that you are always welcome to become involved in NASA. Whether you’re Native, non-native, non-traditional student or even a community member, you’re always welcome. I think sometimes students hesitate to join because of not feeling like they will fit in or that we’re a closed group. That is definitely not the case,” Panek said. 

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