Students at Modesto Junior College have stepped up to help less fortunate feet, collecting shoes and socks for some of the poorest people in the nation.
The effort is among the first of the Red Nations & Friends club at MJC, chartered in the fall. The group meets the first Saturday of each month for cultural activities and to create a sense of community, said organizer Harry “Mitch” Mitchell.
“I would like to see it incorporate and teach the Native American culture and break the stereotypes of Native Americans that are still out there,” Mitchell said. “They don’t think we’re still here.”
For Andrew “Sonny” Aguilar, the group is a chance to teach Native American culture to children, “so they can be proud of it.”
A sense of pride for young Native Americans also appealed to Sean Romero. “They need to learn how we strived and how we survived and where we’re going,” he said.
Non-Native Americans have joined the club, too. “It sounded like fun — I like to try something new,” said Adam Pangelina.
Mitchell, a Marine veteran, grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, considered the poorest in the nation. The reservation has an unemployment rate of more than 80 percent, life expectancy of 47 years for men and a teen suicide rate four times the national average. An estimated 29,000 people live on the large reservation, the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.
The MJC Red Nations club took up the cause of helping gather shoes for the tribe and have gotten blankets donated as well. An Associated Students of MJC drive brought in boxes of contributions to start it off. The collection will end April 18, with representatives of Pine Ridge driving down for the annual MJC Powwow to accept the gifts and join in the celebration, Mitchell said.
The MJC Powwow will be April 20, with opening ceremonies at 10:30 a.m. and gourd dancing at 11 a.m. Festivities, including a fancy shawl competition for all ages, will continue until 7 p.m.