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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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Students of Year Took Different Paths to Haskell

by Dave Ranney Lawrence Journal-World
credits:Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo Carlene Nofire-Morris, left, a Cherokee, and Erika Washee Stanley, an Arapaho-Cheyenne, have been chosen Haskell Indian Nation University's Students of the Year
Five years ago, when Erika Washee Stanley arrived at Haskell Indian Nations University, she didn't know what she wanted to do with her life.

Carlene Nofire-Morris, left, a Cherokee, and Erika Washee Stanley, an Arapaho-Cheyenne, have been chosen Haskell Indian Nation University's Students of the Year and will give the school commencement address.

"I didn't have much direction," she said. "I knew I wanted to come to Haskell, but that was about it."

That soon changed.

"Haskell made me realize my potential," she said.

Stanley, a straight-A student, is one of two graduating seniors chosen to speak during Haskell's commencement ceremony. She'll be joined on stage by Carlene Nofire-Morris.

Together, Morris and Stanley are the Students of the Year, a title comparable to valedictorians.

At first glance, they don't have much in common. Stanley is 23, from Wichita and wants to be an urban planner. In the fall, she'll go to Kansas University to get a master's degree in urban planning. She got married a year ago.

Morris is 41. She and her husband have three children, ages 23, 18 and 6. For as long as she can remember, she's wanted to be a teacher. An elementary education major, she hopes to teach elementary school next year in or near Topeka. Eventually, she hopes to get a master's degree in elementary education/mathematics at either KU or Emporia State University.

Morris' parents are both full-blooded Cherokee from Oklahoma. Stanley's father is half Arapaho-Cheyenne. Her mother, she said, is Irish.

Morris is vice president of the Haskell Student Senate and a key player in efforts to start an on-campus day-care center. Stanley is president of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society at Haskell. She's not had much interest in campus politics.

Despite their differences, Stanley and Morris both feel amply rewarded by their time at Haskell.

"Haskell has a unique atmosphere," Morris said. "So many different cultures are represented here, and yet it's very small in that we all know each other. I have instructors here who are like a mom and dad to me. They are always there for me."

Stanley called Haskell a community, adding that it's not unusual to see young children accompanying their mothers to class and, a minute later, encounter a tribal elder.

"Being at Haskell gives you the opportunity to understand the complex issues facing Indian country today," Stanley said. Many of these issues, she said, are tied to basic differences in the Native and non-Native value systems.

"As an environmental studies major, I know that Native people have a different world view, and the value they put on things — the land, for example — is often different from the values of the dominant society," Stanley said.

Many times, she said, the non-Native culture judges a project's worthiness by the money it saves or makes.

"But in the Native world view," Stanley said, "economics is not the most important thing. What happens to the land is beyond a monetary value."

Stanley and Morris both said they wished Haskell had the resources to do more than it does.

"Right now, Haskell makes do with what it has," Morris said. "But if it had more resources and more money, it could do a lot more."

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