Indian Center looks to shed ‘Res’ label

The Res.

Mentioning the phrase at UNL will make students smile and administrators cringe. Both will picture the multi-acre property on the northeast corner of 9th and Military streets that is a tailgater’s paradise and a law enforcer’s nightmare.

However, the land that is littered with empty beer cans and occupied by thousands of college students on football Saturdays is not “The Res” and never has been.

It is the Indian Center.

“I don’t know where that mislabeling phrase came from but it wasn’t from us,” Clyde Tyndall, Executive Director of the Indian Center, said. “We are the Indian Center and that’s it.”

The Indian Center is a non-profit organization founded in 1969 to provide assistance to Native Americans who were relocated to Lincoln following the Indian Relocation Act. The organization’s mission has since evolved to focus on helping community members become self-sufficient.

“We want our people to obtain jobs and education so they can make it on their own without being on public assistance programs,” Tyndall said.

The Indian Center’s work has also shifted to encompass nearly the entire state and include non-Native people. In fact, almost 80 percent of the Indian Center’s clientele are non-Natives.

“We want to reach everyone we can,” Tyndall said.

One of the services provided by the Indian Center is the Youth Suicide Prevention Program (YSP). YSP is a three year-old program designed to lower youth suicide rates across the state.

“We don’t want to lose any more Native Americans to suicide,” Program Director Nettie Grant Sikyta said. “That’s what the program is about.”

YSP has identified 115 Native American youths to be at risk for suicide in its three years of existence. The program provides counseling, mental health referrals and suicide survivor speaker events to the youth involved.

“This program is worth it to me if we just save one life,” Sikyta said.

Sikyta references one specific case in which she asked a client how she was doing. The woman told Sikyta she was the first person to ever ask her that.

“If we can even give them a little relief to know that they’re not alone, we are doing our jobs,” Sikyta said.

The Indian Center is also active in preserving Native American culture. Tyndall and the organization are making an effort to bring back native languages to serve as a link to the past.

“Many of us don’t understand our languages because we were told to speak English at home,” he said.

Additionally, they hold an annual pow-wow, officiate sweat lodge ceremonies and host church ceremonies on their grounds. Tyndall said that the cultural events are some of the strongest the Indian Center offers.

“(The cultural events) are very important because without our culture, we would die,” Tyndall said.

The Indian Center representatives are frustrated that tailgaters are receiving more attention than their efforts in the community.

The tailgating began as a way to raise money for their charitable services, but grew to the point that law enforcement and the local media began to take notice.

“Things were peaceful and family oriented and those were very good times,” Tyndall said.

Now a sign stands in front of the Center that reads, “No Walk-Ins, alcohol or drugs.” The Center’s new policies on football parking are a part of efforts to shed the public perception of the Indian Center as the group that enables college students to binge drink before football games.

“Any abuses of the law and our land falls entirely on the (tailgaters)” he said.

Tyndall would rather focus on something much simpler: keeping the doors open.

“Nobody provides money on the doorstep, you have to go to after it,” Tyndall said. “The biggest impact we can have is keeping the doors open and continue providing our services to everyone.”

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