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Protesters stand in front of the UNM Bookstore during a demonstration against the North Dakota Access Pipeline Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. Indigenous groups such as the Kiva Club are opposed to the election of President-elect Donald Trump, saying his values contradict their beliefs.

Protesters stand in front of the UNM Bookstore during a demonstration against the North Dakota Access Pipeline Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. Indigenous groups such as the Kiva Club are opposed to the election of President-elect Donald Trump, saying his values contradict their beliefs.

Indigenous students also affected by Trump's rhetoric

'Everything Trump advocates for is against what we believe.'

This story is the first in a series on post-Election Day reactions from different groups in the UNM community.

Shock, surprise, awe.

A combination of those feelings, to varying degrees, was felt by most Americans last Tuesday, when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump won Florida, then Pennsylvania, then Wisconsin.

And then, officially, the Oval Office.

Ever since, many Americans have been left in a bit of a daze over the surprising outcome. It has also made some feel apprehensive about the potential repercussions of what some feel is a new cultural mindset of xenophobia — one that has already manifested itself.

USA Today and CNN have reported an uptick in alleged hate crimes and ethnocentric rhetoric, which many would argue have been validated by Trump’s campaign, and some of his proposed policy points.

Many Hispanics, Muslims and women have reported feeling threatened by many comments Trump has made over the last year and a half, but another minority group feels the same level of dissociation from society, to a certain degree, in the days since the election.

“Everything Trump advocates for is against what we believe: that all walks of life are sacred, in a sense where you need to respect people,” said Hope Alvarado, a Native American UNM student and Kiva Club member.

She went on to say that Trump doesn’t embody that mandate for basic respect, whether it’s for Hispanics, Muslims, women or indigenous peoples.

With Trump’s now infamous declaration that Mexico is sending rapists and criminals across the border, his proposed policy to ban Muslims from entering the country and his alleged crass history when it comes to harassing women dominating the media landscape, it might be tough to acknowledge how Trump’s rhetoric could be connected to Native Americans.

That is, if you aren’t Native American yourself.

For indigenous people, however, Trump’s comments can be measured in broad strokes. For example, his alleged history of sexual harassment and vulgar remarks about women reverberate back to the indigenous population, whose concept of femininity holds a different connotation than what mainstream thought suggests.

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Most indigenous communities are matriarchal, with the very Earth — and its resources — referred to as a mother, as “she.”

“Women have a whole different role in our communities than they do in urban settings,” Alvarado said. “When Trump is talking about sexual assault so freely and openly, it’s completely disrespectful to our own beliefs.”

It isn’t just those comments that have irked Native Americans though — it’s what Trump represents. Having a president whose brand has become synonymous with big money and big business is possibly the worst situation for them.

So just what does the indigenous population have at stake in the 2016 election? “Everything,” according to Tiayrra Curtis, another Native American student and Kiva Club member.

According to a recent report by The Guardian, Trump’s dealings have also hit home among Native Americans in an ongoing clash of ideologies near the border with Canada. The report details that the new President-Elect has close ties with the Dakota Access Pipeline project.

“He’s all for it, and that’s just something we’re not with,” Curtis said. “Our treaties, our policies, our land and natural resources (are) all at stake.”

A less safe campus

Alvarado and Curtis said they don’t just feel threatened on a symbolic level by Trump’s rhetoric. Like many others across the nation, they fear for their physical safety as well.

And considering how much UNM prides itself on diversity and inclusiveness, that has surprised them to an extent.

While they say UNM has always had a “racist atmosphere” — a sentiment represented by the ongoing campaign to abolish the University’s official seal, which Kiva Club is involved in — there’s a more palpable air of unease now.

“I have to ask my partner or any of his friends to walk me out to my car to get my charger, because I don’t know if someone is going to attack me,” Alvarado said. “That’s not something I’ve ever felt before.”

Just one day after the election, images of swastikas associated with Trump’s name have been spray painted on Main campus, and one student allegedly attempted to pull a hijab off the head of a female Muslim student.

An image of a “White Only” banner that purportedly hung outside Brickyard Pizza across from UNM the night of the election has also been circulating social media.

Alvarado said she has never been one to be nervous about walking around campus alone, but according to her, the atmosphere is different now — it feels threatening.

“That someone might just want to go across the street to McDonald’s and they might be attacked in that little moment of time because somebody believes that they don’t belong there, or that they are less of a person based on the color of their skin, is unacceptable,” Alvarado said. “It’s not a climate that should ever be accepted.”

For the next four years, unity

Many departments across campus have organized events and offered their spaces as a sort of safe haven for students who might feel anxious being on campus.

That message wasn’t one that needed to be explicitly expressed for Kiva Club members.

“We don’t have to say we’re here for each other,” Curtis said. “We know we’re here for each other.”

As far as for students who might not be associated with the group and are looking for a place of solace, Curtis has one message, one that many have been spreading in solidarity for their peers, whether they know them personally or not.

“You are loved,” she said, adding that the group has an open door policy for anyone, indigenous or otherwise.

That policy also applies to people who want to help, but may not know how. Everyone is encouraged to attend the group’s meetings to help make campus safer “for all students.”

Alvarado and Curtis also underscored the value of nonviolent protests to make voices heard. For them, it’s the only way people might pay attention.

It’s just as important, Curtis said, to refrain from telling people how they should feel or react, especially in emotionally charged times such as these when “everybody has a different form of healing.”

“Everyone is human, we all feel something,” Curtis said. “It’s not OK for someone to tell them, ‘You shouldn’t feel that.’ It’s not OK to tell someone to ‘get over it.’”

One way that Kiva Club is working to create solidarity it is through the upcoming Native Beats event, an indigenous art festival organized in support of the anti-DAPL pipeline movement that will be held on Sunday at the SUB.

Now Native Beats has also become a symbolic event of unity within the indigenous community, a tight-knit group that Alvarado suggested will need to become even more unified in order to remain strong and with voice.

“It’s going to be a tough four years,” Alvarado said. “I really feel that it’s important in this time, in this climate, that we work together in protection of each other as humans from those who want to harm us based on our identities.”

David Lynch is the editor in chief at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.


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