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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 5, 2002 - Issue 71


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Celebration Sends Strong Message to Campus

by Katie Eder Daily Nebraskan
credits: Alyssa Schukar/DN
From right: Panelists Leola Bullock, Victoria Smith, Amelia Maria de la Luz Montes, Blanca Ramirez and Victoria Smith discuss struggles and advances for the Institute for Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

From right: Panelists Leola Bullock, Victoria Smith, Amelia Maria de la Luz Montes, Blanca Ramirez and Victoria Smith discuss struggles and advances for the Institute for Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The 30th anniversary of the Institute for Ethnic Studies was a time for reflection on the past and discussion of the future.

An audience of about 30 followed the speeches and panels held Friday and Saturday with many questions and much discussion.

In the opening event, Ken Bordeaux, a spiritual leader of the Teton Lakota, gave a prayer in Teton Lakota, which a few decades ago could only be said underground.

Marcela Raffaelli, director of the Institute for Ethnic Studies, then presented a history of the institute, which was established in April 1972 after university students demanded ethnic courses and held rallies.

Since the foundation of the institute, it has grown from two faculty members to 17 faculty members, two lecturers and many affiliates, she said.

During a panel discussion in the afternoon, panelists agreed ethnic studies courses should be required.

Rosie Walker, a UNL alumna, said she took the things she learned in ethnic studies home, where she talked with her mom about the topic. Her mom found it so interesting, she ran off with her books.

"She's getting the same impact through me that I got through my professors," Walker said.

Erin Vaughn, a senior Spanish and secondary education major, said she loved interacting with students from various backgrounds in ethnic studies classes.

Unlike Walker's family, Vaughn's family was uninterested in her work with Spanish and ethnic studies, but her dad is now volunteering as an English as a second language instructor, she said.

On Saturday, keynote speaker Harriet Ottenheimer, professor of anthropology and American ethnic studies at Kansas State University, spoke on

"Ethnic Studies in the Curriculum and the Classroom: Challenges for the 21st Century."

The institute's 30 years were a tribute to flexibility in a mono-cultural Midwest, she said.

The anniversary corresponded with the anniversary of the The National Association for Ethnic Studies.

Ottenheimer said ethnic studies programs introduced change, and change was threatening to mono-cultural thinkers.

Victoria Smith, assistant professor of history and Native American studies, said she knew some white students left class with racial guilt, so she prefaced her teaching by saying, "Nobody in this class is responsible for what has happened in the past."

"It takes the pressure off my students," Smith said.

Amelia Maria de la Luz Montes, assistant professor of English and ethnic studies, added that ethnic groups must stop thinking gays and lesbians are less a part of their ethnic groups just because of their sexuality.

The celebration ended with a lunch and a speech by Thomas Calhoun, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University and former director of the institute for ethnic studies at UNL.

In his speech titled "From Marginalization to Legitimacy: Have we Arrived?" he said there still needed to be unity among all oppressed people, who were linked to those in traditional ethnic studies.

The institute needs to flex its muscle and refuse to back down, Calhoun said.

"The institute is doing some good things, but it hasn't arrived yet," he said.

The Institute of Ethnic Studies • College of Arts and Sciences
Ethnic Studies refers to the investigation, exploration, and involvement with those factors and areas that bear on the lives and experiences, both past and present, of ethnically distinct minority groups in the U.S. The Institute for Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is composed of three separate programs: Latino and Latin American Studies, African American and African Studies, and Native American Studies. Although they operate together under the leadership of a single Director, each program has its own coordinator and plans its own curriculum and activities.

Lincoln, NE, MAP
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