Wednesday, October 31, 2007

American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

Tomorrow marks the beginning of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. We celebrate the contributions that American Indians and Alaska and Hawaii Natives have made in American culture in the past, but especially in the present.

Unfortunately, due to lack of contact with Natives or inaccurate views about Natives based on reflections of the past, many Americans do not have an accurate picture of Native peoples today. Many buy into negative stereotypes about Natives, such as imagery about alcohol and drug abuse, or base their ideas of Natives on historical sepia-toned imagery. As Native leaders, we need to work hard not just this month, but every month, to share the good news about Natives and their modern-day successes and leaders in our community. We have pharmacists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, businessmen and women, and more that are leading our communities and rebuilding them, for Natives and non-Natives alike.

Tribal colleges are ground zero for the renaissance of Native peoples. Tribal colleges serve both Indian and non-Indian communties as centers for learning for children, college students, and adults; gathering places for the community; health centers, pharmacies, libraries, art galleries, computer centers, Native language centers, and much, much more.

This renaissance didn't happen overnight. The tribal college movement has been ongoing since 1969, with the founding of Diné College, which paved the way.

Perhaps changing the image of Natives with Americans won't happen overnight, either. But as we proudly claim our Native birthright while celebrating our past and present successes we will change that. We must keep our eyes on the task at hand: educate our minds and our spirits and lead our communities to succeed. Not only do we exist, but we excel. Spread the good word!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Flame of Hope Gala

The 12th Annual Flame of Hope Gala is a little more than a week away. I hope to see you all there. We have top-flight entertainment planned, beautiful items to auction, and best of all, our talented and bright students will be joining us as we celebrate the future of Indian education.

See you in New York!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Native American Heritage Day

The American Indian College Fund supports Senate Bill S. 1852, “the Native American Heritage Day Act of 2007,” which would designate the Friday after Thanksgiving to honor our Indian nations across the country and help highlight the contributions they have made to American history.

Throughout American history, Native Americans have made important contributions to the nation, society, and culture, including the modeling of the separation of powers amongst the branches of government in the U.S. Constitution after the structure of the Iroquois Nation; the role Sacajawea played as a guide and ambassador of peace to Lewis and Clark on their western expedition across the west to the Pacific coast; and the use of American Indian language by Native soldiers as weapons in both World War I and World War II to defeat American enemies. Hopi, Choctaw, Comanche, Kiowa, Winnebago, Seminole, Navajo and Cherokee Americans used their languages as a secret code, and in World War II, the Marines relied on Navajos to create and memorize a code based on the Navajo language.

Today Native Americans continue to live according to their own traditions and cultures, and are making greater contributions than ever before. More than 30 tribal colleges across the country are educating future accountants, doctors, lawyers, health care workers, educators, policymakers, and political leaders.

To recognize the past and present contributions of Native Americans would honor not only our ancestors, but those who are striving to make a better life for themselves and their people. It would also benefit the American people, who would learn more about Native people as a result.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Fund Serves as Consultants for Eddie Murphy movie

The Fund was asked to serve as a cultural consultant for the filmmaker Eddie Murphy's comedy, "Nowhereland," which was filmed in Denver this week. As part of our duties, Fund staffers reviewed the script to ensure that the humor was not offensive to Natives, and made sure cultural references were accurate. In addition, three Fund staffers served as extras in the movie. They are Patti Archambault, Ruben Hernandez, and Ashley Sarracino. We also armed several Native extras with t-shirts emblazoned with tribal college logos to wear on the set.

I traveled down to the set on Tuesday and met with the producer, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura of Di Bonaventura Pictures. I was able to watch the filming take place, and was shepherded behind the cameras to see what the picture looked like on the monitors. I was then taken into the lobby of the Brown Palace Hotel, the site of much of the shooting, where I was interviewed on camera for the DVD. I discussed my heritage, the mission of the Fund, and our role with the film, as well as whether Hollywood is doing a better job portraying Natives in film.

Watch for the film to be released next year!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fall Frenzy

Fall is harvest time, and here at the Fund, we have been busy working to bring in funding for scholarships, build corporate support for our programs, and build awareness about the importance of education in Indian country. In a way, we are harvesting our relationships... and to take the analogy of harvest and growth a bit further, planting bulbs that will blossom in the spring when it comes to creating new relationships.

I have spent much of my time these past six weeks visiting tribal colleges across the country to learn about their needs. As I travel, I have the opportunity to meet our students, from the young to the old. As I hear these students' stories of struggle and determination for an education to build a better life, I always come away from my travels humbled with the task that I have been given, and awed at how the American Indian College Fund creates hope for all ages in our community.