When Christina Thomas traveled to the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium, held in Cuzco, Peru, she learned just how much Indigenous peoples throughout the world struggle each day.
Thomas (Northern Paiute, part Western Shoshone and part Hopi) is a 27-year-old college student from Nevada who spent several days with Native Peruvians as one of 15 Native American ambassadors to the consortium.
In the case of Peruvians, sometimes just owning their Indigenous heritage is a threat to livelihood, The Daily Sparks Tribune reports.
“These people won’t even claim their ancestry because they wouldn’t be allowed to sell their stuff in the street and will be discriminated against,” Thomas said. “I see all our struggles here and then see how far behind they are (in Peru).”
Native Americans such as Thomas have found the strength to be proud of their heritage, and one of the things she found striking was the inability of some native peoples to embrace their cultures in their home countries. Thomas said she saw shadows of her own people’s past in the current lives of the indigenous people of Peru, who currently are struggling with acceptance and human rights just as Native Americans did when Europeans came to North America.
The trip served as a point of great inspiration for Thomas, who wants to study to be an orthodontist so she can help the people of her reservation in rural Nevada.