Salish_Kootenai_College Crest

Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Reservation

Montana is home to seven Indian reservations and tribal colleges, but until recently no gay-straight alliances existed on campus.

Thanks to the hard work of Rosalinda de la Luna-Long and her students, Salish Kootenai College (SKC) on the Flathead Reservation now boasts the first ever Gay-Straight Alliance at a tribal college:  Spirit of Many Colors. De la Luna-Long, assistant to the college’s president and director of the Rosalinda de la Luna Foundation, received a $2,000 grant from Pride Foundation last December to help fund the new group’s activities.

Spirit of Many Colors hosted a Diversity Fair for Martin Luther King Celebration last month, presenting to local first graders about the harmful effects of bullying in schools. The group has also presented to SKC’s social work department about domestic violence in same-sex relationships. According to de la Luna-Long, students reported that it was “the highlight of the quarter” and powerful to hear personal stories from their LGBTQ and two-spirit peers.

De la Luna-Long had been urging new SKC President Luana Ross to expand the school’s non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. With the support of Ross and the new student group, SKC’s board of directors recently passed a new, inclusive non-discrimination policy.

The traditional Native American star quilt made by a Spirit of Many Colors' members

Traditional Native American star quilt made by a Spirit of Many Colors’ members

“With a GSA organized group now on campus, safety, respect, and acceptance of all students had to be taken into consideration for the college community,” explains de la Luna-Long. “Also, the support from Pride Foundation helps the larger campus comprehend that there are funding sources and support for the LGBTIQ community in the wider region. It shows that Spirit of Many Colors is not alone.”

The de la Luna Foundation is collaborating with Spirit of Many Colors to host a community panel on bullying, as well as supplying a culturally-appropriate workshop to help train leaders in the schools and community who can respond to bullying. The group is organizing a raffle of a traditional Native American star quilt made by one of its members, which will help raise funds for the organization. For more information, contact Rosalinda.de.la.luna@gmail.com.

Founded in 1985, Pride Foundation inspires a culture of generosity to connect and strengthen the Northwest’s LGBTQ organizations, students, and leaders. To suggest blog post topics or get involved, contact Caitlin@pridefoundation.org.

(Homepage photo courtesy of Leslie Evelyn.)

Posted In: Blog, Building Organizations, Blog, Montana