Student of the Year: Cheyenne Travioli

Tuesday, April 10, 2018 - 7:30pm

Cheyenne Travioli

Cheyenne Travioli Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

Cheyenne Travioli is more than just a leader in the University of Michigan’s Native American community. Though she’s a leader on Martha Cook Residence Hall’s Multicultural Council and a champion of underrepresented minorities, Travioli’s most remarkable trait isn’t just her academic and community excellence. Through her life, Travioli has shown a remarkable sense of wisdom.

Named after her reservation, Travioli is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, part of the Lakota Nation. But for Travioli, like many other natives, these reservations aren’t a safe home.

“Not all reservations are the same, not all are as bad,” Cheyenne said. “There’s not many resources. My reservation, I haven’t gone out there since I was a little girl, because it’s pretty bad.”

As run-down as life on her reservation was, Travioli hasn’t forgotten because according to her, these poor conditions were due to a lack of awareness by the public.

“(Reservations) are put off in the corner," Travioli said. "They were built that way so non-Natives wouldn’t have to interact with Natives.”

Because of her experiences, Travioli, an LSA senior, has designed her professional endeavors to further Native American causes. When she became chair of the Martha Cook Multicultural Society, Travioli used that opportunity to make a change.

“I decided to take hold of educating the girls within my dorm about Native American issues and the culture in general because I know Native Americans on campus,” she said. “We’re not really represented as much as I would like to see.”

With this goal in mind, Travioli threw numerous cultural and educational events in Martha Cook throughout November — Native American history month. She educated students on traditional regalia and served guests various teas with fried bread and “wojapi.” After gathering more people than she expected, Travioli fed her guests not just food, but also knowledge.

Outside of her roles at Martha Cook, Travioli is a board member of the LEAD Scholars program. Through LEAD Scholars, she collaborates with the Native American Student Association to further Native American representation on campus. With Martha Cook residents, LEAD Scholars, and NASA, Travioli organized a powwow — a Native American ceremony with feasting and dancing.

“I tried to advertise about this powwow, advertise about current Native American issues, and (raise awareness) for lectures through the American culture department,” she said.

Travioli ’s efforts in educating students about Native American heritage has culminated in a History of Art major with minors in Museum Studies and Native American Studies. With these concentrations, Travioli is currently working on a project that fills in some of the blank pages of the University’s history.

“Under Professor Tiya Miles, we are looking through documents at the Bentley, and anything we can find in the Clements (William L. Clements Library) about Michigan’s Biological Station and it possibly being on stolen Native American land,” she said.

Travioli’s activism has extended outside of the University as well. She is a frequent contributor to Her Campus. Through Her Campus, Travioli supports not just Native American culture, but other cultures and “‘invisible” identities by sharing the wisdom she’s learned from her own tumultuous past. She teaches others to accept their damages and disabilities as a part of their identity.

After her time at the University, Travioli hopes to one day work at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. where she’d like to expand upon Native American cultural exhibits.

“Throughout the years, if a museum featured Native American art, I always found myself a little disappointed because there’s only a number of artifacts compared to, say, the Islamic Department or African American Department,” she said. “What motivates me to be in the field is to make sure my people are represented well.”