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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 18, 2002 - Issue 61


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New Haskell Graduates Share Ambition to Preserve Cultures

by Dave Ranney Lawrence Journal World
credits:Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photos
After four years in college, most students want to get a job, make some money and take on the future.

Cory Spotted Bear and Carlos Cariaga, who were among 170 students to graduate Friday from Haskell Indian Nations University, are on a different mission. They want to save a language.

"My grandparents went to boarding schools where they weren't allowed to speak their language," said Cariaga, a 26-year-old Santee Sioux from Santee, Neb., who received a bachelor's degree in American Indian Studies.

"So later on, they didn't teach their kids — my parents," he said. "Now there's a whole generation, my parents' generation, that sort of got skipped, they didn't get to learn their language. So we are trying to preserve it."

And that's important, Spotted Bear said, because, "Language and culture go hand-in-hand. You can learn a language without knowing anything about the culture, but you'll be only getting half the picture, and you can study a culture without knowing the language but you won't know what it means. You need both."

Spotted Bear, a Mandan Hidatsa Arikara, grew up on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in central North Dakota. He, too, graduated Friday from Haskell with a degree in American Indian Studies.

Spotted Bear, 25, and Cariaga both plan on going to Kansas University next year to pursue master's degrees in linguistics at the Center for Indigenous Nations Studies.

"It's really important for Indian people to get an education," Cariaga said. "Indian people today account for only 2 percent of the population, and an even smaller percentage go to college."

He added: "Haskell is a good place for an education."

More than 2,500 people — a mix of proud relatives, friends and instructors — attended the 90-minute commencement ceremonies at Haskell Stadium. The event featured an energetic performance by the Yun Shu Ka Dancers, representing the Tlingit, Haida, Aleut, Tsimshian, Inupiat and Athabaskan nations of Alaska.

"This is a bittersweet moment for me," Erika Washee Stanley said during her commencement address. "It is good that we are graduating, but there is an air of sadness. Haskell has been like a second home for me. It has changed my life for the better."

Stanley, 23, an Arapaho-Cheyenne from Wichita, shared Haskell Student of the Year honors with Carlene Nofire-Morris, 41, a Cherokee from Oklahoma.

U.G. Paisano, who graduated from Haskell Institute (high school) in 1933 and finished "business school" at Haskell in 1934, was named Outstanding Alumnus for 2002.

Paisano, who lives in Albuquerque, N.M., helped start an alumni group, the Haskell Club of New Mexico, in 1963.

Facing the crowd of students about to graduate, Paisano said, "I hope you all go on to a better life and, in some way, help your tribes. And, some day, I hope you can have the same feelings toward Haskell as I do."

Earlier this week, Ralph Reed, head of Haskell's commencement planning committee, said 111 students would receive two-year degrees and 59 would receive four-year degrees.

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