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
"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
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
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."
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
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.