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Pride, Honor, Culture, Unity:
Native America at the University.

Red Wasp FNL, Symposium   2-24-10

By Freddie A. Bowles
Fayetteville, Arkansas

       E D I T O R ' S   N O T E   of   March   11,   2010 :
According to Trisha Blau, Program Director of the Office of Student Activities, over 500 folks took part in the Native American Friday Night Live event on February 26 at the University of Arkansas Connections Lounge. Participants had the opportunity to taste traditional Indian tacos while listening to Cherokee storyteller extraordinaire Robert Lewis. Wanda Hummingbird used soaked strips of bark to demonstrate Cherokee basket weaving. Ian Thompson from the Mississippi Band of Choctaws led guests through the steps in making pinch pots to take home. Guests could also try their hand at making dream catchers, beaded bracelets, and painting pictographs on rocks. The event lasted from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. with participants who stayed ‘till midnight enjoying the bonus of a free Native Pride t-shirt.

At the trailing end of the shortest month of the year, the days lengthen and idle thoughts turn to warmer days and greener vistas. But the temperatures still linger in the lower range of the Fahrenheit scale, so it’s no surprise that indoor events hold sway to bring us together at winter’s end. We socialize, we celebrate — and, in a college town, we learn from each other.

On our campus, the University of Arkansas in the mountain town of Fayetteville, a student organization is showcased every week of the semester in a gathering called Friday Night Live. The Office of Student Activities (OSA) finances and supports the late-night event to give students, especially on-campus students, a free event centered on the special interests and unique talents of the organization chosen to serve as that week’s host. 

Most Friday Night Live programs include food and crafts, and if you stay the entire evening from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., then a T-shirt is likely to be included!

Stories, Potters, Weavers, Beading
And a Taste of Delicious Fry Bread

This coming Friday, February 26, I’ll be attending a Friday Night Live event for the first time.  As faculty advisor for the reorganized Native American Student Association, which is hosting this Friday's event, I’ll have a chance to hear storyteller Robert Lewis from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, watch Choctaw potters and Cherokee basket weavers demonstrate their crafts, try my hand at beading, and taste some fry bread and other culinary specialties.


Friday Night Live draws on average between three hundred and four hundred students in the Arkansas Union Connections Lounge. The evening’s program combines socializing and education, a great combination for a night out on a university campus.

The Native American Student Association (NASA) consists of a cadre of dedicated and motivated students, who are determined to reinvigorate the organization and bring an enhanced awareness of Native American cultures to our campus.  President Summer Wilkie is indefatiguable.  Her leadership keeps our core group — Vice President Colton Cowles, Treasurer Nathan Kuhns, Secretary Sarah Plumb,  Historian Mallory Scheurer, Research Coordinator Ryan Spring, and Graphics Designer Carly Storts — on task. 

The vision to reorganize NASA began in 2008 when Emerald Hames and Michelle Ryel, recruiters in the Office of Admissions, sought social and cultural support for Native American students on our campus. Since the fall semester, when we had our first meeting, NASA has participated in the Indigenous Peoples Observance Day and collaborated with the Native American Symposium during National Native American Heritage Month in November.

NASA is a small group of tight-knit student leaders with big plans. So join us this week and discover who we are, what we do, and where we are heading.

Reflecting on November's
Native American Symposium.

Not quite four months ago, another Native American event captured the attention of the University community.  I was fortunate to participate in the Native American Symposium, a week-long series of meetings and programs about politics, culture, economics, and common ground.  Now that I'm preparing for another special event related to the first peoples of America, it seems appropriate to reflect on November's symposium and the special memories it holds for me.

November was designated Native American Heritage Month by President Obama with the theme, “Pride in Our Heritage, Honor to Our Ancestors.”  Many of us “recent” immigrants to this vast land can claim some Native American heritage.  My grandfather’s mother, Nanny Arnetta Speaks, was Native American — Cherokee, according to my mama and aunt.  Grandpa sang to us in a language we didn’t recognize and relied on tobacco and other herbs as remedies for just about everything that happened to him.  He stayed home from the First World War to take care of his mother while his other brothers went off to the front.  He learned how to cook during this time and eventually opened a bakery, where he lost several bits of fingers in the kneading machine.  His life ended as a rice farmer on land near Hoxie, Arkansas, a magical place of farm animals, fresh eggs, fruit trees, and the best fried chicken in the world.

To honor, support, and remember the first peoples of this country at the University of Arkansas, Dr. Frank Scheide and Dr. Gloria Young, among others, formed the Native American Symposium 16 years ago.  The committee has grown to more than a baker’s dozen as our campus diversity awareness increases.  At the same time, financial support and sponsorship by the Honors Film Association; Native American Student Association; OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology; the Honors College; Multicultural Center; Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs/Dean of Students; Walton College of Business; College of Education and Health Professions; Arkansas Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association; and the Department of Communication provided the resources to have not one, not two, but several opportunities for students, faculty, and community members to attend events on and off campus.

Trail of Tears

A view of the Trail of Tears as it passes through
Village Creek State Park in Arkansas.

A Somber Cinamatic Opening
Delivers a Stern Historical Reminder.

The symposium opened on Monday night (November 2) with a “sneak” preview of the new National Park Service documentary, The Trail of Tears, a 25-minute film to be shown at all sites along the National Historic Trail.  The Cherokee walked over one-thousand miles during the 1838-1839 forced removal of their people from Georgia to Oklahoma. 

The film opens in a log cabin in a small village in Georgia.  The narrative, in Cherokee and English, follows the elder of the village as he attempts to mollify new settlers, who are clamoring for land.  When gold is discovered on Cherokee land, the Cherokee negotiate with the U.S. government to remain on their land, but are defeated by Congressional vote.  Removal begins in 1838.  The Trail of Tears provided a somber opening to the week’s events and a stern reminder of Arkansas’ role in this tragic tale.  Part of the Cherokee trail cuts across the southeast corner of our campus.

Green Party Activist Addresses
The Deconstruction of Empire.

The next day saw gloriously warm, sunny weather, stirring the heart with awe at the magnificent colors of the campus arboretum — another reminder of humanity’s role in caring for mother earth and a fitting backdrop for this year’s keynote speaker, Winona LaDuke, an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe), twice nominated to run on the Green Party ticket as vice president to Ralph Nader’s bid for President. This was Ms. LaDuke’s second time to participate in the symposium. She was honored that Ms. Duke afternoon at a student reception to meet members of the Native American Student Association, the OMNI Student Association, and the Green Party Student Association.

Ms. LaDuke’s evening address focused on the symposium theme, “Native Americans, Ecology, and Sustainability,” a fitting topic for the Founding Director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Executive Director of Honor the Earth.   She spoke to us about “deconstructing empire,” interweaving tribal prophecy, history, and social commentary to share her work with the White Earth Reservation as they continue the process of relocalizing food and energy production. While recognized as a political activist, Ms. LaDuke reminded us of the importance of her current work by quoting her father, “I don’t wanna hear about your philosophy if you can’t grow corn.” Ms. LaDuke graciously answered questions and signed autographs for over an hour after her speech, allowing time for the rest of us to mix and mingle.

A Silent Film about the Ojibwe
Features an Exquisite Live Orchestra.

A screening of The Silent Enemy, a docudrama from the silent film era, portrayed the Ojibwe way of life prior to contact with the white culture.  The enemy?  Hunger.  The place?  Canada.  The story followed the tribe’s journey to the Arctic as they awaited the migration of the caribou, their last resort before starvation.  The ending?  A successful hunt, the banishment of the evil medicine man, and the union of the warrior and the princess.  The surprise?  Live music!  Rodney Sauer and the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, a quintet of exquisitely trained musicians, have become “regulars” at the symposium.  Their musical intuition put the words into our minds as we listened and watched the incredible cinematography of the 1930 film.

What a fine way to start November! And it was only Wednesday. Fortunately, the weather spirits graciously continued to grant a reprieve from the several weeks of rain and cool temperatures. Each day was sunny, temperate, and colorful.

Victory at the Olympics

Billy Mills crosses the finish line of the 10,000-meter run in first place at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. His Gold Medal performance, captured by a photographer for Stars and Stripes, thrilled Americans. A Marine Corps officer and member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, Lt. Mills grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Billy Mills Continues to Inspire.

Thank goodness, because Thursday’s event was an early morning journey to the center of the world of commerce, Wal-Mart Headquarters in Bentonville, where we listened to motivational speaker Billy Mills, winner of the Gold Medal in the 10,000-meter Olympics race in Japan in 1964.  Wal-Mart’s Tribal Voices, an American Indian and Alaska Native Resource Group, extended an invitation for members of the committee and the Native American Student Association to attend the event.  Wal-Mart has 16,000 American Indian and Alaskan Native associates employed in their company.  This statement appears on the Wal-Mart website:

We understand that diversity and inclusion is more than numbers and programs. It is, at its heart, about people — valuing their talents and abilities, seeking their unique perspectives, and creating an inclusive environment that invites and welcomes all to participate. This becomes the foundation for an inclusive, sustainable business that embraces and respects difference, develops all associates, serves our customers better, and is a partner to the community.
Retrieved 11-11-09 from

Mr. Mills, an Oglala Sioux, captivated the audience by interweaving personal narrative and anecdotes with his message of self-empowerment. Mr. Mills believes the greatest challenge facing us today is the power of perception and its tendency to distort and misinform. Facing this challenge requires leadership by consensus and intelligent, adaptive programs of change. He advocates a value-based concept of self-empowerment grounded in Native American virtues and values, including wisdom, generosity, humility, and responsibility.

Urging us to seize “the opportunity to choreograph the vast university of opportunity that change presents,” Mr. Mills inspired a rousing response from the gathering.  No wonder he was voted Toastmasters’ International Top Motivational Speaker.

It was an exceptional day, not only for us, but for all Native Americans. For the first time in history, the President of the United States, President Barack Obama, was hosting the first Nation-to-Nation conference with hundreds of tribal leaders. One representative from each of the 564 federally recognized tribes was invited to meet with the President on this very day.

With regret I bade farewell to Fayetteville that afternoon. A conference down the mountain in Fort Smith required my attendance. I missed an evening reception for Mr. Mills hosted by Tribal Voices at the Museum of Native American Artifacts. How nice it would have been to visit the museum and chat with Mr. Mills, but when duty calls, one must answer.

the web

I missed Friday’s event, too. It was a presentation by Mark Jensen, Construction Program Director of the Red Feather Development Group’s straw bale housing project.  He discussed the ecological and economic advantages of straw bale housing.  Located in Bozeman, Montana, the Red Feather Development Group describes itself as “. . . an independent, non-religious 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that employs volunteer humanitarian action to empower American Indian communities, foster cultural sensitivity and understanding, and contribute grassroots solutions to the enormous challenge of improving the dire housing conditions facing many of our nation's reservations.  Established in 1995, Red Feather works in partnership with Indian families and communities to implement sustainable home construction methods that offer hope to the tens of thousands of tribal members that have no home of their own.”

Fortunately for me, Mr. Jensen traveled with us to hear Mr. Mills, so I did have the opportunity to visit with him. He briefly described his role in the group, his travels related to the group’s projects, and his interest in expanding the group’s housing initiative to other Native American nations. My colleague, Cathy Wissehr, also a committee member, reported an enthusiastic audience for his compelling presentation.


President Obama declared November as “National Native American Heritage Month” on October 30, 2009.   Here is the proclamation.

a proclamation

The indigenous peoples of North America — the First Americans — have woven rich and diverse threads into the tapestry of our Nation's heritage. Throughout their long history on this great land, they have faced moments of profound triumph and tragedy alike. During National Native American Heritage Month, we recognize their many accomplishments, contributions, and sacrifices, and we pay tribute to their participation in all aspects of American society.

This month, we celebrate the ancestry and time-honored traditions of American Indians and Alaska Natives in North America. They have guided our land stewardship policies, added immeasurably to our cultural heritage, and demonstrated courage in the face of adversity. From the American Revolution to combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have fought valiantly in defense of our Nation as dedicated servicemen and women. Their native languages have also played a pivotal role on the battlefield. During World Wars I and II, Native American code talkers developed unbreakable codes to communicate military messages that saved countless lives. Native Americans have distinguished themselves as inventors, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders, and scholars. Our debt to our First Americans is immense, as is our responsibility to ensure their fair, equal treatment and honor the commitments we made to their forebears.

The Native American community today faces huge challenges that have been ignored by our Government for too long. To help address this disparity, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocates more than $3 billion to help these communities deal with their most pressing needs. In the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, my Administration has proposed over $17 billion for programs carried out by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, and other Federal agencies that have a critical role to play in improving the lives of Native Americans. These programs will increase educational opportunities, address the scourge of alcohol abuse and domestic violence, promote economic development, and provide access to comprehensive, accessible, and affordable health care. While funding increases do not make up for past deficiencies, they do reflect our determination to honor tribal sovereignty and ensure continued progress on reservations across America.

As we seek to build on and strengthen our nation-to-nation relationship, my Administration is committed to ensuring tribal communities have a meaningful voice in our national policy debates as we confront the challenges facing all Americans. We will continue this constructive dialogue at the White House Tribal Nations Conference held in Washington, D.C., this month. Native American voices have echoed through the mountains, valleys, and plains of our country for thousands of years, and it is now our time to listen.

Now, Therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2009 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 27, 2009, as Native American Heritage Day.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

Barack Obama

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