Letter: Event focused on making more welcoming community

From: Debra Nyberg Haza


On Sunday, Showing Up For Racial and Social Justice will host a march/rally recognizing the great diversity in Columbus. We will gather on the steps of City Hall first, then march to Fourth Street for a rally of speakers of different backgrounds and ethnicity, songs and an audience participation exercise. Rain location is The Commons.

The focus of the event is recognizing racial and social discrimination in Columbus of people and their individual communities. There will be an opportunity to seek different ways we can support each other and what we can do to help make our environment a more welcoming community for all.

I’m of Native American Indian heritage, belonging to the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians and proud to say I was born and raised in Columbus. Some I believe would not recognize me as being Indian because of their mindset as to who is an Indian person. In our world we call that stereotyping.

I sometimes find myself explaining who I am, and I’m happy to do so. Identifying as American Indian I do my best to carry on our traditions and cultural uniqueness with my family. Our human rights differ greatly as compared to other groups because of the federal oversight into our everyday Indian way of life in belonging to a federal recognized tribe.

As our children went through Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. we encountered discrimination by an individual working for the school. He was self-appointed to teach our traditions and customs to students. When I personally witnessed his teachings, I could not stand by and say nothing. I had to speak up. This led to several discussions between myself and various invested groups to help find a resolution.

I persisted. I didn’t quit, and I didn’t say it was too hard just because a population didn’t understand my culture. I believe it’s my responsibility to my community to educate others to the best of my knowledge. I believe the best way to learn about Indians is from Indian people, not non-Indians.

I’m happy to say with my life story, the self-appointed person within BCSC and I came to an understanding of where we had our differences. The most important outcome is that it led me to co-create the first-ever Indiana Native American Indian Affairs Commission for the entire state. On the day of the march/rally, the commission will have an information table at the event explaining what it is tasked to do.

Our daughter will be speaking on behalf of Native American Indian Voices of Indiana, and our son will be emceeing the event. It’s customary for us to teach the next generation in carrying on leadership and work for our community.

Even though we may have different ways of living life, we also hope we can learn to live with acceptance of others also living their own customs and traditions.