Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren spoke to the Native American student body at New Mexico State University on Thursday, Aug. 31. NMSU’s American Indian Program hosted the event for students to meet the Navajo president and discuss Native American student success across campus.
While most of the audience members were members of the AIP, students from a variety of departments joined Nygren to learn more about Native American rights, history and culture.
“I’ve always supported Native American rights,” said NMSU student Isaac Heard. “I consider myself to be a friend of the Native Americans, so I was really interested in hearing the president of the Navajo Nation speak.”
AIP leaders gave Nygren updates on Native American student-led research throughout the department. Provost and Chief Academic Officer Alan Shoho, who attended Thursday’s event, said he hopes NMSU can become a tier-one research institution and give more opportunities to Native American students. All six of NMSU’s college deans also attended the meeting and took turns sharing with Nygren what they intend to do to expand resources for NMSU’s indigenous student body. According to the American Indian Student Center, 3% of NMSU’s students are of Native American descent and half of that group is Navajo.
Nygren also offered assistance to NMSU’s student leaders and encouraged students to continue their education.
“You can do something for yourself, and it starts with you,” Nygren said. “Ten years ago, I was an undergrad student. Coming from a personal perspective, I think it’s amazing to see your campus. It’s very agriculture and science-oriented.”
All the students who attended were given a moment to introduce themselves to Nygren, including NMSU’s 2023 Miss Native American Latisha Dewahe.
“I’m not Navajo, but to meet the Navajo president was really inspiring to me,” Dewahe said. “I attended the event because as NMSU’s Miss Native American it was important for me to represent the American Indian students at NMSU.”
Nygren has also visited dozens of other college campuses across the country, including Arizona State University, San Juan College, and Navajo Technical University, among others.
“To hear his advice and knowledge was beneficial for myself,” Dewahe said. “Coming from the reservation, we grow up knowing hardships, and seeing how much he has accomplished makes me inspired to do more for my community just like he has.”