Fresno State hosts Native Family Education Gathering

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Native American students from throughout the Valley joined forces at an education forum at Fresno State on Friday. (KFSN)

The sound of drums filled Fresno State, as tribal members ushered in the start of the Native Family Education Gathering. On Friday, American Indian students across Central California were invited to join efforts in Fresno.

"It's very important to me that the young generation knows that the language gets passed down and that our culture gets passed down because we are in a dying generation," said Wayne Hatfield, a senior at Minarets High School.

Hatfield is a Mono tribal member from North Fork. He was one of the more than 100 students who heard from speakers, who share a common culture and experience.

Less than half of 1 percent of Fresno State's student population is made up of Native American students, and officials are trying to change that.

"We want to really ultimately bring more American Indian students to Fresno State and see them through graduation," said Katie Garcia, a Fresno State outreach counselor.

As a part of the conference, students also got a chance to get a tour of the campus and see what classrooms look like.

"Our hope for them is that it becomes something that's just a natural progression to go from K-12 into higher education," said Julian George Garza, an education gathering coordinator.

Garza has been a part of the gathering since it started and wants to bridge the gap for students, especially those who are the first in their families.

"Initially, education was used as a tool to assimilate us and now we want to make it more of something empowering for us, for our community to create leadership so that we continue to flourish as a people," said Garza.

In addition to the conference, the Native American community will be gathering on Saturday at Fresno State for a pow wow. The 24th First Nations Pow Wow starts at 12:30 p.m. at O'Neill Park and is open to the public.

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