Students at Western Iowa Tech Community College learned an important lesson on October 9, 2019; A lesson, about different walks of life.
“Being Native American a lot of our stuff is specific and spiritually oriented.”
Twenty-two-year-old Michael Shonie wears lavender nail polish on one hand along with white dangling earrings as he sits at a round table sharing his story with other about his age.
“I’m talking about my experience being a two-spirited indigenous person in the modern world.”
REPORTER: “What does that mean?”
“Being an indigenous person in the modern world is an experience in itself. And, a two-spirted person is another experience on top of that. It’s not a movement, but a term that means something to us. We don’t identify, it’s deeper.”
In the modern, western world, Shonie identifies as a gay man. But, in the past people with two spirits led different lives before losing the tradition through assimilation.
“They were held in high regard, they were our medicine men, our caretakers, they helped take care of others.”
Teresa McElroy is a counselor for Western Iowa Tech and helped organize this human library, uniting people from across the community.
“The purpose of the event is to educate people on other people’s story. These human books are here to share their story on the struggles in life they have overcome. Or, maybe ways they have been judged or experienced prejudice. So, they’re here to educate their peers about their own identity, their own culture and their own experience.”
Thirty different people give insight on their lives, all with unique perspective.
“So, many of the people taking party have some tie to WIT. Maybe, they took classes here and maybe they are employed here. So, the experiences are vast and varied. They talk about anything, from identifying as a trans man, a Vietnam vet, to a local police officer who is doing community policing.”
“I am a kind of the 1990s, seeing the Rodney King situation and the LA riots that affected by policing. Plus, my step-dad was a cop.”
Jeremy McClure is the Community Policing Sergeant for the Sioux City Police Department.
“I’m talking about how law enforcement affects different communities, especially minority communities and things we can do to better build relationships with those communities.”
REPORTER: “What do you think can be done?”
“The biggest thing is coming together and being open and understanding why people feel the way they do.”
“Most people didn’t feel the term gay, lesbian, queer, trans gender didn’t fit them.”
Michael Shonie admits he was a little skittish about sharing his story. But, the member of the Navaho Nation orginally from the four-corners region of Arizona is open and honest about his experiences.
“I was actually very nervous, I’m glad to share a part of myself and part of awareness to other people.”
As a current student at the community college’s campus in Denison this gathering allows Shonie to connect with others also continuing their education in and out of the classroom.
The “Human Library” concept was created by the Danish youth organization “Stop the Violence” in 2000 and is now operating on five continents, including the campus of Western Iowa Tech Community College.
This is the second time the college organized this all-inclusive event.
There were also people talking about autism, reproductive justice, the Muslim faith, Africa, the military, physical and mental disabilities and more.