On Saturday, Feb. 10, middle and high school students from throughout Arizona gathered at the High Country Conference Center for Indigenous Spirit Day—an opportunity for prospective Lumberjacks to learn all about what the university has to offer. The event functioned as both a social opportunity for students to meet others who may someday be their classmates and an educational one, advising future college students of the scholarships, programs and other benefits of an education at NAU.
Before the day’s presentations, 17-year-old Shelby, a CRIT tribal member from Parker, said she was undecided about whether she would attend NAU. She was looking forward to “seeing all the different opportunities” available at the school.
The morning officially began with a blessing and drum song performed by Báásé Pike, a member of the San Carlos Apache tribe, an accounting major and a 2024 ambassador for the NAU Council for Indigenous Ambassadors. Pike decided to attend NAU for the community both within and outside of the university. The blessing she gave, “Ahííy’eh Gō zhoo dō lal,” translates to “Thank you and may blessings be with you.”
As the day progressed, students heard from the admissions department, the Office of Indigenous Student Success (OISS) and the Native American Cultural Center (NACC). They learned about the commitment to Indigenous peoples outlined in Elevating Excellence – NAU 2025, NAU’s strategic plan, and how OISS and NACC support that commitment. Among the programs under OISS are the Indigenous Peoples Living Learning Community, which gives Indigenous students an opportunity to live among people from a variety of Indigenous cultures, and the Indigenous Peer Mentorship Program, which supports a staff of peer mentors who are there to help navigate all facets of student life. Students looking for support, culture or community connection can visit the NACC, which is not only a resource center but a gathering place for the university community, tribal collaborators and the public.
Presentations concluded with a student panel that allowed prospective Lumberjacks to ask questions of current students—the most pressing being: “Why did you choose NAU?” Panelists’ answers ranged from wanting access to the nursing school’s American Indian Program, which gives priority to Indigenous students to being close to home, to having great study abroad opportunities.
The conference center buzzed with excitement as the visiting students broke into groups for lunch and tours of the campus to be followed later by the Lumberjack basketball game against Montana State University. Some were anticipating what the afternoon would bring. Others were dreaming about their future lives as college students. Still others were simply excited by the falling snow.
Jessica Clark | NAU Communications