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JMU’s Diversity Education Empowerment Program Impact Program discussed indigenous issues with cultural activist Jordan Marie Daniel. 

JMU’s Diversity Education Empowerment Program (D.E.E.P.) Impact Program hosted Jordan Marie Daniel on Nov. 18 in the Union Ballroom to speak for the program’s cultural series. Daniel is an indigenous native and cultural activist within her community, the Kul Wicasa Oyate.

Daniel is also the founder and organizer of Rising Hearts, professional runner, political advocate, filmmaker and Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I) consultant. Rising Hearts is an organization that describes itself as “an indigenous led grassroots organization,” focusing on “intersectional collaborative efforts across all movements in cultivating community.” For the panel, Daniel spoke about her experiences as a Kul Wicasa Oyate native. 

“Everything intersected and aligned in probably the most perfect ways possible,” she said. 

Born in South Dakota, Daniel has been active in her community, with achievements such as raising $35,000 for #orangeshirtday and other efforts to expand her cultural influence throughout JMU. #orangeshirtday is the annual celebration of indigenous boarding school programs ending in Canada, in which the government and religious affiliations attempted to assimilate natives into Western culture. It takes place Sept. 30. 

Throughout the presentation, Daniel provided insight on issues regarding Native American hardships, including modern examples such as the Dakota Pipeline and the renaming of the Washington Football Team. 

“We’re seeing this growing movement of people wanting to foster a deeper connection to the lands,” she said when discussing the rise of land-conservation efforts. 

Daniel spoke for roughly 90 minutes about the lessons she's learned throughout her career.One segment of the panel included her takes on Halloween costumes and “Pocah-hotties.” Daniel described how Disney’s interpretation of Pocahontas set the stage for how Western culture perceives the culture and lifestyle of Native Americans.

“She was wearing next to nothing almost,” explained Daniel. 

The audience had a chance to ask questions for Daniel once the panel concluded.

“My motivation for speaking at JMU was to help increase indigenous representation and storytelling,” Daniel said.  

Daniel’s father works as a psychology professor at JMU. She said she makes frequent trips to Harrisonburg and is familiar with the campus and its culture because of her family.  

Daniel is also a filmmaker and journalist. Despite having no experience in the movie industry, she expressed why she got started in the business.

“Filmmaking, I never wanted to do … but because I saw the lack of representation of indigenous storytellers in the film industry, it’s what motivated me to become a producer,” Daniel said. 

Her first film, Run to be Visible, finished production within the last month. Funded by Patagonia clothing, the film follows an indigenous soil scientist and athlete. Daniel said her goal for the film was simply to “tell her story.” She’s also currently working on documentaries for the Standing Rock protests and other land conservation activism. 

When asked what her message is to any student listening, Daniel paused for a moment before answering. 

“I really hope everyone on this campus has an opportunity to sit, listen, unlearn and relearn from everybody’s story,” Daniel said. 

To finish the panel, she reflected on the importance of both community and culture. 

“The assumptions we may have about someone may be completely different that what we really assume, and I think that will be part of the process of cultivating community in a meaningful way,” Daniel said. 

Contact Mike Mullen at mullenmx@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.