Keith Niko Freeman ’16

Majors: Economics and Political Science

Hometown: Providence, R.I.

Junior Keith Niko Freeman wants members of the URI community to be more aware of Native American culture. As president of the Native American Student Organization (NASO), a group first recognized by the Student Senate just last year, he and fellow members who meet weekly, are aiming to build their numbers and improve their visibility. “Just like any other organization, people want their voice heard,” he says. “Our purpose is to spread cultural awareness on campus and to cultivate a sense of security so people feel more comfortable speaking their opinions.”

And although it may be a small organization, Freeman says it’s a diverse group. Approximately seven Native American tribes are represented, along with a number of students who are native descendants from other parts of the world such as Asia and the Pacific Islands. Among the North American tribes represented in the group are the Pequot tribe of the Connecticut area, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts, and the Narragansett tribe of Rhode Island, to which Freeman belongs. Many in the group are heavily involved in their tribe’s culture and traditions. According to Freeman, all of the members, including former NASO president Blake Machado who now serves as program/event director, work together to plan events such as their “Night of Traditions,” held in November in conjunction with Native American Heritage Month.

Now in his second year at URI and a member of the track team, Freeman transferred from CCRI and credits the University’s Talent Development program with helping him achieve success. Gerald Williams, director of Talent Development, serves as an advisor to NASO. Asked about his hopes for his NASO presidency, Freeman says, “I want to work to build it up to make it appealing to everyone, especially those who thought they’d never join, so when I pass it on it’ll have a certain legacy.”

Adapted from The Good 5 Cent Cigar article by Michael Kimmerlein

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