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Tribal member Jaron Brandon leads UC Merced as student body President

In District 7, which encompasses northern California, Nevada and Hawaii, CPN member Jaron Brandon is set to take a leadership role like many Potawatomi before him. Starting this fall, Brandon will serve as the elected representative of the student body at his college, the University of California Merced.

A descendent of the Vieux family on his father’s side of the family, Jaron’s great-grandparents Archie and Jewel Blain were from Shawnee, Okla. In 1950, Jewell, and her three daughters relocated to California. One of these daughters, Ethel Lucille Brandon (Blain), was Jaron’s grandmother.

Despite originally planning to attend college elsewhere, Jaron chose to register at UC Merced.

“I actually hadn’t even visited the campus, but I signed my student intent to register and literally was in classes two weeks later for summer session. Looking back however, it has been an incredible opportunity to grow. Had I been accepted to my initial first choice of UC Berkeley, I do not think I would be as developed as a student, leader or person,” said Brandon.

As a political science major, he will be spending his time as en elected student leader studying the nuances of politics at both a local and national level.

“Political science is the study of how groups of people make decisions,” said Brandon. “Whether it’s national healthcare or the potholes on your street, no other position allows a  person to be empowered to make large scale changes in nearly every area for so many people.”

Having already served on the university’s Associated Student Legislature for two years, Brandon decided to pursue a higher office following a conversation with a fraternity brother. His brother, who was the student legislature’s Senate Pro-tempore, pointed out the campus had a need for leaders who cared about the role of student government. As the head of the campus’ first political party and after five months of campaigning, Brandon is now the acting President of the UC Merced student body.

“It’s long hours, a lot of responsibility, high pressure and all for about $3.40 a day. But for me, I’m passionate about what I do and those that I serve,” he said.

As a Native American, Brandon also has a different perspective on being a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. The distance between the traditional homelands in Oklahoma and California gives rise to a different view that many CPN members have.

“Much of the Native American issues in California deal with reservation gambling and less about the culture,” commented Brandon. “But the regional meetings and online resources, especially the tribal video department, help me connect to the tribe despite the distance. Their work has really shed a light on many of the activities performed back in Oklahoma.”

On what it means being Potawatomi, for Brandon, the distance between the tribe’s home and traditions are equaled by the notion that sense of community connect his fellow tribal members from District 7’s California, Nevada and Hawaii-based residents.

“Seeing such a diverse set of people coming together for a common purpose, ritual and shared sense of familiarity is very meaningful to me.”