Native American residential community Kalapuya Ilihi aims to improve community, retention for Native students

Located within the University of Oregon’s newest dorm, Kalapuya Ilihi, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Academic Residential Community aims to educate a close group of students about Native American history and culture.

An Academic Residential Community (ARC) is a space that students can apply to live in when they apply for housing at UO. Through an ARC, students get to live on the same residential floor as other students who have similar academic or social interests. The members of the ARC then take a few classes together throughout the year.

Over the course of the year, these ARC students will gain half of the credits to complete the Native American and Indigenous Studies minor.

“It’s a very rigorous academic minor,” said Stephanie Tabibian, a Native American retention specialist.

In the minor, classes emphasize government relations between tribes and the state. They also explore a mix from different departments on campus, including linguistics and English.

The ARC was created to address the main reason for low retention rates for Native students, which is the lack of community, according to co-director of the ARC, Kirby Brown.

The community is open to both Native and non-Native students but emphasizes resources for Native students to succeed. According to research, many Native students will either leave after their first year or fail to complete college.

The NAIS is also placed in an area of campus that is surrounded by resources. The Many Nations Longhouse on Agate Street is located across the street from Kalapuya Ilihi, and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History sits a little further, right next to Global Scholars Hall.

For some minority students, the ARC is a place where a shared culture can expand, said junior Sonara Malumaleumu, a member of the Native American Student Union.

“It’s always nice to come to a place where you’re surrounded by people that you can relate [to],” Malumaleumu said.

Although it is normal for an ARC to have less people in its first year, at seven students, the NAIS is one of the “smallest” inaugural ARC communities UO has had, according to Tabibian.

The ARC is a monumental moment for the Native community at UO. Tabibian said that while they couldn’t make a Native residence hall happen, it was important to at least name the building in a culturally appropriate way and have a designated space for Native students inside.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Tabibian. “I think we always want to be the debut institution for Native studies in the Northwest, and what we were missing [was] a Native residence hall.”

Follow Kylie Storm on Twitter: @kmstorm99

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