Indigenous Representation Is Critical to Cultural Diversity

“Oh my god! Zendaya is so relatable, she’s like my spirit animal!”

“For rush week, we’re going to have a pow-wow to get to know each other better.”

“I’m 1/16th Native because of my great (x4) grandmother, so I totally qualify for this scholarship.”

These are just some of the many phrases I’ve heard during my time as an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz — a predominantly white institution with a 1.3% Indigenous student population, often regarded as ‘other’ in the survey questionnaire on diversity at UCSC. Whether it was in class, walking through quarry plaza during rush week, or even in the extracurriculars I participated in, I was surrounded by a culture of tone-deaf rhetoric that trivialized sacred vernacular held by Indigenous people around the world.

That was when I knew things had to change, as I was often the only Indigenous student in these spaces. However, I was at a loss of where to even begin advocating, not only for myself but for other Indigenous people. I was barely 18 when I found out I was Indigenous through a DNA test. I only knew 1⁄4 of my biological grandparents so I don’t have certainty in who my ancestors are, but I began making an effort to get a better picture of the culture they were likely a part of.


“That was when I knew things had to change, as I was often the only Indigenous student in these spaces.”


La Frontera/Borderlands: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua empowered me to realize that it’s normal to find out you’re Indigenous later on because of the damage colonialism has done to Indigenous lineages. This was when I began to see things differently in my surrounding environment, where colonialism persists even in the most subtle ways.

When I first entered as an alternate representative for the 2019-2020 Student Union Assembly (SUA), the University’s student government, I noticed that I was the only present member of the Assembly with Indigenous descent. And by the second Assembly meeting, a resolution was presented by a student group advocating for deregulation on drug restrictions for the UCSC campus and the city of Santa Cruz. Due to the University’s arbitrary no smoking policy, I would have personally supported this resolution, in fact, most of the Assembly was ready to pass this resolution.

However, amongst the list of drugs that they sought to deregulate, ayahuasca and white sage were included. In several Indigenous cultures, these plant-based substances are sacred for healing practices, and due to the recent popularity of recreational use for these plants, both have recently been placed on the watchlist for endangered species. This puts a strain on the resources available to Indigenous nations everywhere that depend on these plants for medicine.

With this in mind, I asked the student group if they had been in contact with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band (the people whose land that UCSC was built on) about the approval of this resolution since the list included substances the Tribal Band likely depended on. Their answer was no and this left several members of the Assembly visibly uncomfortable, realizing that this was a question they overlooked until I had asked.

I then advised the student group to get the Amah Mutsun’s approval for this resolution first before the SUA passed it. By the time deliberation came the following week for approval of the resolution, the student group had no comment as they had not reached out to the Amah Mutsun for their approval. Upon reflecting this, I urged the Assembly in a five-minute declamation to not let this resolution pass as it doesn’t reflect the sensitivity of tackling Indigenous’ peoples access to healing resources. The resolution failed by the majority consensus of the Assembly.

And while this was a victory, I couldn’t help but think what would’ve happened had I not been present in the SUA space.

I’m a first-generation college student who went into higher academia with the goal to open doors for others in the first-generation community. However, I expanded my intent of being at UCSC to open doors for not only first-gen students but now for Indigenous students, as I’ve realized that my existence in these spaces affects the Indigenous community’s well-being.


“I’m a first-generation college student who went into higher academia with the goal to open doors for others in the first-generation community.”


There is an overwhelming likelihood that this is a similar case for other Indigenous students in higher academia across the United States, as we’re often the only ones in the room or fully excluded outright. This causes an inordinate amount of emotional labor put onto us as we’re left with the uncertainty of whether or not non-Indigenous people are knowledgeable of how to represent us in these exclusive spaces, thus becoming an exhausting hassle.

So, here’s a basic toolkit of how to Indigenize yourself and be an ally when we’re not in the room:

(1) Get Searching

  • Do you know whose land you’re on? If you don’t know, then it’s best to get familiar with, a map made by Native Land Digital that showcases the Indigenous territories around the world. Just enter your place of residence and bam, you’ll get a small tidbit of info about the land you’re in!
  • If you become aware of whose land you’re on then it may be the time that your company, university, or club enforces a land acknowledgment! This is usually something you can get from the Indigenous tribes’ website so when you’re repeating the land acknowledgment at the beginning of meetings or events, it’s coming directly from the tribe. Don’t repeat it too often though, as it could potentially just become an agenda item rather than proclaiming the sacred meaning it was intended to have.
  • Another good way to advocate for Indigenous people is to know the population of Indigenous people at your university or company. Maybe even explore why there potentially is such a low number and connect with either the American Indian Resource Center (nearly every University should have one) or Human Resources to figure out what could be done to increase the presence of Indigenous people in your space.

(2) Get Sacred

  • Remember those phrases I started off this post with? All of those phrases in italics signify parts of Indigenous culture that is sacred. By trivializing those terms into everyday vernacular without knowing their meaning, it becomes an attack on the sacredness of Indigenous culture. Try and correct others around you if they use similar dialogue in casual conversations. Language correction is key.
  • If you’re wishing to use sage to ward off negative energy, then make it a point to purchase from actual Indigenous nations that sell sage! The same goes for crystals and other tools for healing since this will allow Indigenous nations autonomy in how they wish to utilize their resources!

(3) Get Social

  • Support Indigenous-owned businesses! Head here to see a list of Indigenous-owned businesses that include industries like fashion, beauty, food, and art:
  • Follow social media accounts like @illuminatives or @indigenouspeoplesmovement on Instagram, or even look through the Indigenous tag on TikTok to follow famous Indigenous TikTokers like @notoriouscree!
  •  Follow Indigenous activists like Autumn Peltier to be aware of how our climate crisis is disproportionately affecting Indigenous people the most, this will get you connected to other activist accounts so you eventually have an information network of Indigenous activism that tackles a wide variety of issues.
  • Watch modern movies or TV shows with a big Indigenous cast and/or production presence, some of these could include, but not limited to Chambers (Netflix), Reservation Dogs (FX on Hulu), Rutherford Falls (Peacock Original), Resident Alien (Syfy), Smoke Signals ($2.99 to rent on Youtube), and Blood Quantum (Netflix).
  • We just had our first-ever Indigenous Cabinet Secretary confirmed in March 2021. Deb Haaland, who is now the Secretary of the Interior, heads a department that works on relations with Indian Country in the United States amongst a wide variety of other issues. It’s best to follow what the Interior Department is doing throughout the Biden-Harris Administration as it can showcase how to advocate for Indigenous people in congressional lawmaking and company policy.

It is crucial for me to state that I am only one of many Indigenous people around the world and do not represent the insight of my entire community. However, these recommendations come from a place of what I’ve learned and unlearned while living as an Indigenous person in my surrounding environment. If there is someone you know that’s Indigenous, then listen, hear their story, and learn, as those stories often reflect the struggles Indigenous people go through daily.

We are still here.

HIVE Insider Saxon Stahl (Pascua Yaqui, Hopi, and Diné [Navajo]) is a fourth-year student from UC Santa Cruz studying Environmental Studies (Global Environmental Justice Concentration) and Political Science. Stahl is also the undergraduate body’s Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion for the 2020-2021 academic year, serving as a liaison between the 18,000 undergraduate community and campus administration. In addition, Stahl is a member of the NAACP UCSC Chapter and a former intern at the Santa Cruz Climate Action Network.

Educating Ourselves on Others

It’s only natural that college students will want to learn material they can relate to. But as a first-year student at UCLA, taking a variety of cultural and gender-study classes has shaped my belief that all students could greatly benefit from taking classes that focus on backgrounds outside of their own identities. Understanding how other people’s identities impact how they experience the world is a vital step towards true equality. And so, I cannot help but think of the good that could arise if more college students endeavored to enroll in classes that would educate them on the perspectives of others. 

Understanding how other people’s identities impact how they experience the world is a vital step towards true equality.

Cheyanne McLaurin

As a black student in the American education system, I was never truly exposed to black history, and so I had always known that once at the university level I would enroll in an African American studies class. I have finally had the opportunity to do so — and it was a genuinely empowering experience.

Sitting in that classroom was the first time in my life where I witnessed great black authors being presented and praised in an academic setting as objectively elite, rather than a subcategory to the white authors that America regards as the standard. And while this feeling of empowerment is unquantifiably valuable to me, it was an unexpected comment from one of my non-black classmates that gave me the greatest feeling of optimism.

It was during the very last discussion in that classroom that we were posed with the question: “Why are African American studies important?” My classmate expressed that he felt it was important for America to recognize all of the amazing contributions and influence that black people and black culture bring to our world.

His comment was brief, but the message resonated with me. Although I have always known of the beauty and value within black culture, I had accepted it as something only members of the black community can recognize. To hear a non-black peer send praise to my culture brought me a great deal of joy. This also planted a seed of hope in me — because it was the first time I’ve witnessed that the beauty of black culture can be seen, understood, and appreciated by others.

This also planted a seed of hope in me — because it was the first time I’ve witnessed that the beauty of black culture can be seen, understood, and appreciated by others.

Cheyanne McLaurin

This empowering moment for me wasn’t isolated. Not long after, I had two similar experiences in one of my gender studies classes, which solidified my conviction in the importance of taking classes outside of our own identities

During that class, I learned that western cultures have a tendency to view religions that encourage modesty as oppressive. Together as a collective, the class came to the conclusion that we cannot judge someone else’s beliefs based on our own values and expectations. The idea that we have to stop viewing others through the lens of our own experiences is one that will forever stay with me — and one that I hope to spread to those around me.

The idea that we have to stop viewing others through the lens of our own experiences is one that will forever stay with me — and one that I hope to spread to those around me.

Cheyanne McLaurin

During another impactful gender studies lesson, we were given material that expressed how the media’s portrayal of femininity, sex, masculinity, and violence leads to real-world violence towards women. I’ll never forget the women in my class commenting on how the material articulated the fear they experience every day. Later, a classmate said something that will stay with me always: “I am going to make all the men in my life read these articles so that they can understand.” And with just those words, she indirectly summarized my new philosophy. 

Men may not take classes on gender/women studies because they feel they cannot relate to women’s experience — and non-black students may be hesitant to take an African American studies class for the same reason. This thought process — while understandable — is ultimately very harmful. Our inability to relate to one another is one of our world’s greatest obstacles. The solution is straightforward — we need to educate ourselves on each other’s experiences.

Our inability to relate to one another is one of our world’s greatest obstacles. The solution is straightforward — we need to educate ourselves on each other’s experiences.

Cheyanne McLaurin

Seeing the world through a lens that goes beyond myself has been a deeply moving and insightful experience. I urge anyone who is able to explore the viewpoints of others — in any academic setting — to readily seize the same opportunity.

Cheyanne McLaurin is a first-year psychology major at UCLA. She has always been passionate about diversity and is currently involved in multiple campus organizations that celebrate black culture and advocate for the academic advancement of black students. She is grateful to be working with a platform that takes practical steps to advance the equity of minority communities and increase diversity in the workplace.

A Black College Student Reflects on Her Childhood and the BLM Movement

This article is republished from Katie Couric Media.

Trying to find a first job or internship after college is difficult enough, but last year, that stress was further amplified for students when the academic year was cut short by the pandemic. For students of color, who were even further traumatized by the events that led to Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, the concept of job searching might seem totally overwhelming. That’s where HIVE DIVERSITY comes in. The digital career development and recruiting platform connects employers with recent grads in order to create a diverse workforce that all companies should strive for. We spoke with one young student, Uchechi Ihenacho, who is currently attending Princeton University, about growing up as the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, how the events of last summer affected her, and how HIVE has helped her to realize that closing the representation gap in the workforce is possible.

On June 7, a Black Lives Matter protest swept my hometown of Jersey City. Signs in hand and masks on, the crowd moved across the street circling City Hall while encouraging people on the sidelines to join the movement. Summers in the city are hot, but the passion of a city united burns fiercer.

At the front of the crowd was a girl with a loudspeaker in hand. Three years younger than me, she was president of the Black Diaspora Club, my high school alma mater’s version of a Black Student Union, a body composed of Black students and allies seeking to recognize and improve the Black experience. It was initially difficult for me to spot her from a few feet away, but her words reverberated through the city — an echo of 4,000 voices.

She recounted the unjust murder of George Floyd and numerous other innocent Black lives, then called for ‘defunding the police.’ The enthusiastic crowd audibly dulled down a bit with the call. Skeptical eyes shifted to the floor. We all agreed that something had to be done, but the term was ripe. Police officers were lined up behind her and littered across the whole neighborhood — the most I had ever seen at once in this part of town.

June 7 was also the day my family celebrated my parents’ birthdays. They weren’t born on the same day — in the process of emigrating from Nigeria, my father mistakenly put down my mother’s birthday as his own while filing documents. That was the first of many mistakes they made upon their arrival. The next was assuming that life would be easier in this country.

As they searched for jobs, they had their first bittersweet taste of the country. My father eventually found a part-time job as a taxi driver, where racial slurs from frantic passengers and drivers overcome with road rage were common.  My mother obtained a job as a pharmacist after several failed attempts to show her extensive credentials from Nigeria. Three years later, my sister and I were born on the same day, then my brother arrived nine years later.

Having developed a hard shell from their experiences, my parents raised my siblings and me to prevail. Mantras such as: ‘You have to work twice as hard as anyone else to succeed,’ and ‘education is the only way you can guarantee security,’ floated through my household as often as complaints about New Jersey taxes. It felt like I was fighting an unseen power that was keeping anyone who looked like me down on the basis of my skin color. Competition served as motivation, although it took many years for me to understand that my opponent was systemic racism. Unlike many others, I had the privilege of having a support system that believed in me. The concept of progress and struggle were inseparable in my house. I couldn’t shake the feeling of unfairness out of mind, but knew dwelling on it would not get me anywhere.

I didn’t grasp the concept of systemic racism until recently. As the most diverse city in the country, my Jersey City classrooms were quite colorful. It wasn’t until I started advanced educational programs in elementary and middle school that I realized I was often one out of perhaps three Black people in the room. And it wasn’t until my acceptance to Princeton University that I fully came to terms with being a marginalized minority.

Going from a high school with an African American student population of 25% to a college with 9% representation required some time for adjustment. At this predominantly white institution, there have been many times in smaller classrooms settings where I have been the only Black person. Princeton meant searching for community, reexamining my social identity, and putting in more effort to develop the diverse friend groups that I grew up with. It also meant receiving a stellar education with amazing professors and a support system. It meant living in dorm rooms that used to be slave barracks, entering buildings built by former enslaved Africans and named after slave owners, and having my school, formerly known as the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, glorify a man who adamantly supported racial segregation. A month after the death of George Floyd and a few weeks after the City Hall protest, Princeton took Wilson’s name off of its residential college and school. Progress.

Last summer, I started a summer internship at HIVE Diversity, a recruiting platform meant to transform the way employers and employees engage by diversifying the workforce. During the course of my internship, I was assigned a project of examining the DEI efforts of Fortune 500 companies. In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, I saw an overwhelming number of companies releasing statements in support of the movement and more importantly, listing actions that they would implement to support diversity and inclusion efforts. Some action plans were vaguer than others, but it was encouraging to see a near universal recognition of inequality that penetrated private companies, and taking steps to make change. HIVE Diversity makes it easier for companies to close their representation gaps and provide students the opportunity to connect with companies that value their diversity and want to make a difference — a direction I hope all business will follow.

As a student in my third year of college, it seems as is if everyone is preparing for the future. People think there isn’t much they can do besides voting and attending protests — what can be done if you aren’t in the White House or at a think tank? If there’s anything I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that there’s so much progress to be made in every corner of our lives. From our schools to our offices to outside city halls, there are opportunities to advance a more whole America that equally supports all of its people, despite their color or immigration status. 2020 was a wake-up call, and it’s our responsibility to move ahead.

This conversation has been lightly edited.

Uchechi Ihenacho is currently a junior at Princeton University studying in the Princeton School of Public Policy and International Affairs, as well as African American and American studies. She’s a former Business Development intern and current Insider at HIVE DIVERSITY. Outside of her business interests, she is passionate about forming solutions to societal issues dealing with matters of equity and educational advancement which is what drew her to HIVE. 

How One Student Podcast Host Tells the Stories We Don’t Hear

Last year, I witnessed a 19-year-old Black girl plea for help via Twitter after a sexual assault incident, and go missing – only for Tallahassee police to find her dead body one week later. I witnessed a 26-year-old Black woman fail to receive justice after Louisville, Kentucky police officers wrongfully murdered her. Oluwatoyin Salau and Breonna Taylor fell victim to what 2020 made very clear to me: the world ignores Black women until it’s too late.

In the midst of a global pandemic, where I worried for my mother’s health as she worked on the front lines as a nurse practitioner, I wondered if there would ever be a chance for Black women to not only be heard, but listened to. My podcast, The Court, along with guidance from HIVE Diversity, helped me refocus my energy to create and foster a safe environment to tell our stories. 

My podcast, The Court, along with guidance from HIVE Diversity, helped me refocus my energy to create and foster a safe environment to tell our stories. 


2020 opened up as a year full of promise and potential. I looked at my study abroad semester in Prague as a time to reward myself with exciting adventures and deep personal growth while tackling a 16-credit course load.

In Prague, I spent my mornings learning the art of travel-writing in the center of Old Town Square. My nights were spent with new friends trying exotic foods and enjoying the lively culture of the city. Nothing could disturb my care-free attitude – until the morning of March 12, 2020. My residential hall assistant woke me up at around 7:30 am to alert me that my study abroad program had to be cut short due to the rapid global spread of COVID-19.

I had to leave the Czech Republic the very next day.

I tried to look on the bright side: I entered the United States safely and came home to five healthy younger siblings with two healthy parents. However, living in the epicenter of the virus, watching rising case numbers and death tolls, emphasized the reality of living on borrowed, uncontrollable time.

Not only was I constantly worrying about my mother’s safety as she worked with COVID-19 patients everyday, the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Oluwatoyin Salau sustained my worry for Black women everywhere.

We live in a patriarchal society with systemic racism, and Black women inevitably fall to the bottom of the totem pole. Only those within our demographic show true concern for our issues.

For example, protests and petitions placed pressure on Daniel Cameron, Kentucky Attorney General, to seek justice for Taylor’s murder. As a Black man, one may assume he would use more diligence to bring peace to Taylor’s family.

He announced the charges six months after the shooting and only charged one of the three officers with three counts of wanton endangerment; no one received consequences for Taylor’s actual murder. I transformed my anger towards these events into ammunition to help create a safer society for my little sisters to grow up in.

I transformed my anger towards these events into ammunition to help create a safer society for my little sisters to grow up in.

Chinenye onyeike

Through research, I found that podcasting and audio storytelling were growing mediums attracting popularity from society. I saw this as a space for me to grow professionally while establishing a platform to call my own; I soon planted the roots for my podcast, The Court, which is a podcast where Black women have the home-court advantage.

In a world where society silences, skews and ignores Black women’s voices, our community deserves a safe space where we’re understood. Not all podcasts centered around Black women aim to reach 16 to 25-year-olds; I aim to form an environment of comfort for listeners tackling the not a girl, not yet a woman stage. I touch on topics including, but not limited to: body positivity, the adultification of Black girls and women, and natural hair acceptance within our community.

I’ve always believed that a leader’s purpose is not to gather a group of followers, but to develop more leaders and individualistic thinkers. Our voices, morals and thoughts are some of the few things we as people have control over in this world; my platform celebrates that and encourages others that look like me to love who they are instead of feeding into constant oppression. 

My involvement with HIVE DIVERSITY, a virtual career development and recruiting platform for students and recent graduates that represents what diversity in the workforce is meant to be, could not have come at a better time. Although the cancellation of summer internship opportunities took me off track from professional goals, HIVE founder and CEO Byron Slosar helped me realize that I have the power to create my own path of achievement towards my professional endeavors. I gained the confidence to use the diversities within my podcast to illustrate my value to potential employers and to help me stand out in the classroom. The Court comes up in conversations during class, interviewers make it the topic of conversation when I speak with them, and it’s allowed me to turn a crazy year into a rewarding experience. 

In a world where society silences, skews and ignores Black women’s voices, our community deserves a safe space where we’re understood.


Without my desire to take control of uncontrollable situations, I would not have the privilege of finding light within the dark tunnels of 2020. I hope to encourage others to use their voice to perpetuate change in all capacities. Our situations should not hold the weight to define us. We as people hold the power to define them. 

HIVE Insider Chinenye Onyeike is an NYU senior studying Media, Culture and Communication with a minor in Business of Entertainment, Media and Technology. As a media studies major focused on journalism, she spent her time in interning at NBC, writing for her school newspaper, The Washington Square News, and creating, hosting and producing her podcast, The Court.