2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.
Story by Awa Badiane ’21
Senior year is a great time to reflect on the journey you’ve taken at Lawrence. For Shelby Siebers ’20, an ethnic studies and psychology double major, that reflection is focusing squarely on the work she has put into indigenizing education.
“When I came to Lawrence, I was involved in LUNA as a member,” Siebers said. “By my sophomore year, I quickly had a board position and I started doing leadership for LUNA.”
LUNA is the Lawrence University Native Americans organization, and during her junior year, Siebers served as president.
“I think LUNA has done a lot,” Siebers said. “The biggest accomplishment each year I think is Indigenous People’s Day.”
What was formerly known as Columbus Day has been changed to Indigenous People’s Day as a way to recognize and celebrate indigenous cultures. For the past five years, LUNA has been hosting a celebration on campus.
“Basically, we invite the Oneida Nation dancers to do a pow-wow demonstration and to just go through what each dance means,” Siebers said. “I think it’s a very significant part of Lawrence’s culture because it shows that we Native students are there, even though our population on Lawrence’s campus is small. And it’s just a really good way to educate Lawrence’s campus.”
During her time as president of LUNA, Siebers helped bring Matika Wilbur, creator of Project 562, to campus. Wilbur was invited to not only speak at a convocation on the representation of Natives, but also to create a mural on campus that adds a positive representation of Native people.
“She came to Lawrence after lots and lots of convincing, and we did a mural on the side of the Wellness Center,” Siebers said. “And it was meant to be a representation of the land Lawrence occupies currently, which is the Menominee Nation. … I feel like this mural was a really big breaking point for Native students on campus because we finally got positive representation.”
For this term, Siebers has gone abroad, studying at Lawrence’s London Center.
“It’s been really hard for me being a Native in London,” Siebers said. “Just because I was so used to building that identity at Lawrence, so I was feeling very secure in it. But here it almost feels like I’m starting over again because it feels like I’m the only Native.”
The commitment to indigenized education and expressing her identity continues, however.
“It motivates me to carry my identity even stronger than I would back at home,” Siebers said. “Being away for Indigenous People’s Day was really hard, but I still represented myself. I wore my moccasins, I wore my ribbon skirt, I wore my beaded earrings.”
Being a mentor
This past summer, Siebers worked as a camp counselor for the Oneida Nation Arts Program, allowing her to work with Native youth.
“It was such a rewarding experience because not only did I get to do what I love to do best, which is work with Native youth and be a mentor toward them, but I also got to be more connected to my culture,” Siebers said.
Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.