New Organization Unites, Empowers O’odham Students at ASU
Gila River Indian News
Voices of O’odham Students at ASU (VOSA) is a new organization created to bring together and empower O’odham students through mentorship, culture, advocacy and community outreach.
“We made a really strong presence here, in our own community, said Napoleon Marrietta, District 4, who co-founded the organization along with fellow O’odham students who felt the need for more representation and support in the institution, stemming from the launch of the Introduction to O’odham language class.
“We didn’t have an O’odham language class but we had a lot of other indigenous languages and so with the collaborative effort of trying to get O’odham something here, it started with that,” said Marrietta, “We now have something that is representative of our people as much as we can.”
Marrietta made the choice to attend ASU soon after graduating high school in 2013. He was accepted to other universities, including the University of Arizona and Grand Canyon University, but chose ASU to stay closer to home and family. A student of Justice Studies as an undergraduate, Marrietta eventually majored in American Indian Studies and obtained a certificate in American Indian Governance.
“It’s been an interesting journey so far,” said Marrietta, who is now in the Master’s program in American Indian Studies with an emphasis on indigenous rights and social justice.
Since being at ASU, Marrietta has been actively involved with shaping activism, advocacy, and education about O’odham and other indigenous issues such as education, sacred site protection, border and water issues.
“We’re educating a lot of people here within the institution, breaking these barriers of getting more O’odham in higher-end positions and represented, continuing their advocacy and why they came to school,” said Marrietta who’s focused on building representation and connecting O’odham communities.
The VOSA organization recently initiated the “land recognition committee,” a group that advocates land acknowledgments in higher education.
“A lot of us advocate for our voices being heard in this decision, in what a land statement means, honoring those who have pushed for visibility,” said Marrietta.
VOSA organizes student involvement, resources and services and virtual events with fellow O’odham such as a shell etching class with GRIC member Tim Terry and a community gardening class with Jacob Butler from Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
“We’re always thinking of ways to bring in O’odham to come in and share what they’re doing,” said Marrietta.
For more information on VOSA, email email@example.com or visit their Facebook page: Voices of O’odham Students at ASU.