NIEA holds Student Day as part of conference

By Hanh Quach

Arizona Daily Wildcat

As part of a five-day national conference on Native American education, a Student Day was held on campus Monday for students focused on retaining traditional values.

National Indian Education Association Student Day featured workshops by Native American educators and members of Native American youth organizations. Celebrity guests, including rapper and actor, Litefoot, who appeared in The Indian in the Cupboard, and actor Rodney Grant, who played "Walks with Wind in His Hair" in Dances with Wolves, also led workshops.

Student Day intends to "encourage young people to pursue improvement in the community and educate themselves and getting them back to traditional ways," said Chris Milda of the Akimel O'odham nation and student board member of the NIEA.

In addition, 200 to 400 Native American students from across the nation toured the UA campus yesterday in what Bruce Meyers, assistant dean of Native American Affairs, called a "major recruitment effort" for the university.

"Student Day is an opportunity to get (Native American) students interested and excited about education," Mason said.

Steve Saffron, a professor at Scottsdale Community College presented an interactive workshop titled "Self Development through laughter."

"It (the workshop) helps people get in touch with the positive side of their personalities, what I call "wuzsheness," said Saffron. "Wuzsheness" is derived from the Navajo/Apache word for tickle.

Perla Lopez, a sixth-grader at Stanfield Elementary School, said the workshop taught her how to laugh.

Aside from NIEA Student Day, Wayne Stein, former NIEA board member and director of the Center of Native American Studies at Montana State University, said he hoped the conference would "sensitize the non-Indian community to become more aware of Indian (presence)"

Stein, who is Turtle Mountain and Chippewa Indian, predicted more than 300 tribes would arrive in Tucson for the conference.

Julia Mason, program coordinator for Native American Affairs, confirmed more than 4,000 people registered for the conference.

In addition, holding the conference in Tucson will allow other universities to study the UA's American Indian Studies Graduate Center.

The UA houses to the only American Indian Studies Ph.D. program in the nation, Meyers said.

Stein said the UA will serve as a model for other schools structuring American Indian Studies graduate programs.

Meyers said he has invited deans and directors of Minority Affairs to attend a reception honoring the tribal leaders Wednesday.

Through this, Meyers said he hopes the university administration will become more aware of national American Indian issues.

Other conference events include pow-wows, tours and poetry readings.

Campus sponsors of the NIEA conference include the American Indian Studies Department, American Indian Graduate Center, Native American Cultural Resource Center, Arizona State Museum and the Office of Indian Programs, Milda said.

The Fort McDowell tribe donated the largest amount, $85,000.

Registration fees for the conference cost $300. Student registration was $100.

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