Empowering Native Populations

Tanyka and her sister, Chenoa, started at Boise State when many Native American students in the Intertribal Native Council (INC) were graduating, leaving just the two of them. “My sister and I are usually together, and people joke that we are really just one person.”  

The two sisters are first-generation college students and members of the Navajo Nation from the Four Corners region but they grew up in Phoenix. They chose Boise State University because they could stay together, pursue their individual academic interests, and be a part of the Native American community on campus.

At first, college was a difficult adjustment for Tanyka. She had to adapt to university life, being far away from home, not knowing anyone other than her sister on campus, and hoping to find a connection with Native Americans in the area.

Once she met some people in Multicultural Student Services (MSS), she was able to overcome her loneliness. Tanyka is now the president of the Intertribal Native Council, a member of the Inclusive Excellence Student Council, and works for MSS as the Seven Arrows Powwow co-director and special populations liaison. She supports students, shares her culture with others, and facilitates change on campus. 

Tanyka is passionate about advocating for Native American students and culture on campus. She engaged in policy change at Boise State by advocating to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day — a day where Native American culture and heritage is celebrated in the campus community. Tanyka also hopes to help create a Native American Studies program so students can learn about their culture through the lens of Native American professors and curriculum.

She wants Native American students on campus to feel supported and have a sense of community. But more importantly, she wants to encourage new Native American students to attend Boise State. “We need to reach out more to Native American communities to show they have a place at Boise State. Other  Idaho universities have a tribal liaison, but Boise State doesn’t. A tribal liaison could help increase the number of Native American students on campus and establish support for them.”

Tanyka said, “We forget Boise State rests on ancestral tribal lands. It is important to me to advocate for a diverse student body. Being a part of the community means that I can help someone who has a similar background to me come here and succeed. Diversity on college campuses encourages acceptance and fosters learning.”

Tanyka and Chenoa are finishing their third year at Boise State. Through their efforts, the number of INC members has grown to 10 members and the Seven Arrows Powwow, held on campus every year, continues to be a success.