During senior year of high school, Mia Bowles was in the midst of applying to college. She, like thousands of students across the country, was beginning to fill out the Common Application. However, unlike many in her community, hers included an extra step.
“It asked for your tribal ID when you put in the CommonApp, and I'm a member of the Miami Tribe of Indiana,” Bowles said.
After filling out the application for Miami University, she received an email from Kara Strass, the director of Miami Tribe relations for The Myaamia Center. Strass invited Bowles to campus for a visit and explained some of the programs Miami offered for Native students.
“I grew up always knowing I was Myaamia,” Bowles said. “But I never had the opportunity to be surrounded by other people who were like me, especially growing up.”
While she learned about her relationship with the tribe from her family when she was younger, Bowles didn’t have the opportunity to meet many others in her community that were part of the tribe.
“People often didn't believe me when I said that I was Native American because they didn't really understand the concept of it,” Bowles said.
After coming to campus, meeting Strass and learning about The Myaamia Center, Bowles decided to commit to Miami.
So far, Bowles said working with The Myaamia Center has been rewarding. In just under two semesters on campus, she’s been able to participate in ribbon work artwork, play traditional games and learn the Myaamia language.
Bowles is a recipient of a scholarship through the Myaamia Heritage Award Program. The program provides enrolled citizens of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma or members of the Miami Nation of Indians of the State of Indiana a four-year scholarship. Along with keeping a minimum GPA and a 12-hour course load, recipients are required to take eight single-credit semester-long classes called Heritage courses.
Through the programs offered by The Myaamia Center and her classes, Bowles has been able to connect with other members of the Miami Nation.
“All the students are just super nice and welcoming,” Bowles said. “And we're all different kinds of people, all majors, and we share this one thing in common, and it's truly like a community.”
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Bowles said she hasn’t experienced any bias or prejudice because of her identity. Instead, she said people are often unaware of the center and the tribe, especially professors and staff on campus.
“They definitely are super curious,” Bowles said. “They want to know more about my experience, and they understand how important it is for me to attend these events and deepen my understanding, which helps [because] if I understand more then I can share with other people.”
Bowles said The Myaamia Center has done a great job in its outreach on campus. Recently, the center has brought in speakers like Sterlin Harjo, creator of “Reservation Dogs,” a show streaming on Hulu. This year, Bowles said she’s seen more activity around the center because of Miami’s 50-year anniversary celebrating its relationship with The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.
“The center has gotten so good at creating these events and creating new opportunities for other students to learn besides the Myaamia students,” Bowles said. “That makes it inclusive for all.”