Native on foreign land: The Native American experience at CSUB


Mother and son Advocating Support Team for Indigenous & Native People. Cameron D.C. Garcia(Left)- Chalon Nation, Mother and son Advocating Support Team for Indigenous & Native People. Cameron D.C. Garcia(Left)- Chalon Nation, BC Student and incoming CSUB Fall 2022 transfer student. Arianne Chow(Right)- Chalon Indian Council of Bakersfield Chairwoman, CSUB Student. Photo by Aaron Pryor provided by Arianne Chow.

Carlos Hernandez, Digital Content Producer

Students walking through CSU Bakersfield take in the cold breeze as they pass by empty benches and hear the rustling of the trees. Making up less than 1% of the student population, these students don’t see their peers, find themselves without dedicated resources for support, and can’t shake the loneliness of feeling foreign on native land. This is the Native American experience at CSUB.

“At this point, there are only 46 of us that are identified as Native Americans at CSUB in this land acknowledged community…walking on campus I feel like I’m a foreigner and I shouldn’t feel that on my lands,” said CSUB student and Chalon Indian Council of Bakersfield Chairwoman, Arianne Chow.

According to CSUB’s most recently available data at the school’s website, Native Americans make up 0.5% of a student population of over 11,000 students. To enact change, Chow is making it her mission to use her voice in a variety of ways.

“It’s my desire, my drive, and my fight right now to get more Native students to get educated and not later in life as I have. Because that is what’s going to help our community and the survival of our future generations,” said Chow.

Among her goals, she intends to run for Associated Students Inc. Vice President of Campus Life position. She has begun collaborating with other Native American Students and Staff, and she has also shared her concerns directly with CSUB president, Lynette Zelezny. However, Chow left the brief encounter with the same concerns she entered with.

President of The Native & Indigenous Student Coalition, David Silva.
Photo provided by David Silva

“I felt dismissed and somewhat redirected…I would like to see action and not just words like CSUB’s land acknowledgment. What our community really needs is resources. I don’t think our concerns are taken seriously because of Native enrollment numbers, but without resources and outreach those numbers don’t grow and I think that should be a priority in this Native land acknowledged community,” said Chow.

She is not alone in this feeling. CSUB student David Silva decided to start the Native & Indigenous Coalition to unite Native and Mexican-Americans, a student club that is inclusive of cultures beyond Native Americans to be a resource for the campus community.

“We formed on the values to promote the education and history of Native & Indigenous students on campus and in the community,” said Silva.

Chow’s goals for a more inclusive CSUB community also resonate with some of the university’s staff. Christina Contreras, the Department Coordinator for All Students Incorporated, formed the Indigenous Faculty and Staff Association in the fall semester of 2021 with the hopes of raising Indigenous awareness, connecting Native students, staff, and faculty, and sustaining the legacy of each respective culture.

“I’ve been able to reconnect with my Native culture, which I was disconnected from most of my life. The association is part of that reconnection where I hope others are also inspired to share their experience and establish a connection to each of our unique Native cultures,” said Contreras.

Chow hopes organizations like the Native and Indigenous Coalition and the Indigenous Faculty and Staff Association raise awareness and resources for the Native population at CSUB, and inspire the university for actionable change beyond land acknowledgment, but will continue to use her platform as a student and ASI candidate to be an active part of that change.

“I have a voice and I’m going to use it for my people, my community, and my ancestors,” Chow Confidently states.