UNC Asheville Student to Serve as Center for Native American Youth Ambassador

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Cara Forbes

Cara Forbes, an English major at UNC Asheville and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, has a message: “We are still here.”

Forbes, who has been a member of the programming board with Multicultural Student Programming since 2015, has worked hard to bring panels, workshops and other events to UNC Asheville that focus on contemporary Native American issues.

“I have made it my goal to incorporate more programs that touch upon contemporary topics regarding Indian Country so that Natives are not seen solely as relics of the past,” Forbes explained. “People are too often left with educational experiences that do not even provide basic foundational knowledge of contemporary Native issues and culture.

“I see this an injustice to the proven communal resilience that has been demonstrated by Native communities throughout past and living history,” Forbes said.

Her work at UNC Asheville resulted in her nomination to the Center for Native American Youth’s (CNAY) Ambassador Program. As a CNAY Ambassador, Forbes will have the opportunity to attend conferences, events and speaking engagements to share her perspective as a Native American youth leader. Forbes will also receive assistance from CNAY to continue to develop and advance her initiatives at UNC Asheville.

A few programs Forbes has already spearheaded include a “My Culture, Not Your Mascot” panel, and a discussion led by UNC Asheville alumna Kristina Hyatt, the 2015-16 Miss Native American USA, on the importance of educating Native American youth on oral hygiene.

“I would love to see plan more events where we have more Native American alumni come to campus to speak and share their stories about the positive impacts they are making within Indian Country,” Forbes said. “I think it's really important to highlight the positive strides that are being made by these individuals.”

Upcoming programming includes a two-day residency by The 1491’s, a sketch-comedy group who describe themselves as a “gaggle of Indians chock full of cynicism.” The group, which has recently appeared on The Daily Show, works to make themselves and their audience laugh, and to encourage critical discussion about some social norms within the Native community.

Forbes said it’s important for the general public to understand contemporary political issues for Native Americans, such as treaty rights, taxation, government-to-government relationships, tribal sovereignty, Native American law and tribal government operations.

“This knowledge has to be shared with the general population so that we can create better chances for progress,” Forbes explained. “One thing I try to stress is that Native Americans make up an incredibly small percentage of the total United States population. Without allies who are educated on Native American issues, there is not nearly as much hope for Indian Country to continue making headway. However, prioritizing a platform for the voices of Indigenous peoples in dialogues surrounding tribal issues is still important - if not vital. Indigenous peoples, if present, need the opportunity to share their own narratives.”


The 1491’s Residency Schedule:

An Evening with The 1491s
Wednesday, Feb. 22
7p.m., Lipinsky Auditorium
Ticketed performance.

Master class with The 1491s
Thursday, Feb. 23
Noon, Mountain View Room, Sherrill Center
Free and open to the public.

For tickets and more information, visit the CESAP website.

Photo by Sarah Carballo '17.