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Webmaster's Blog - Native American Resources

A place to put resources of a more ephemeral nature, such as events, recommended new websites, new books, etc.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

First Native Woman to Become a University President Joins Antioch Seattle

Dr. Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet, chosen to be president of Antioch University Seattle this week, is believed to be the first Native American woman to ascend to the presidency of an accredited university outside the tribal college system.

Dr. Manuelito-Kerkvliet served as the first woman president of Diné College, the first tribally controlled community college, located in Tsaile, Ariz. While there, she successfully negotiated with the Navajo Nation a 242 percent increase in tribal appropriations for the college. She founded and directed the Indian Education Office at Oregon State University and has worked in various student service and counseling positions at Oregon State University, University of Oregon, University of New Mexico and University of Wyoming. Dr. Manuelito-Kerkvliet is the great, great granddaughter of Navajo Chief Manuelito.

Recently, she served on the Biological Sciences advisory board for the National Science Foundation and as a consultant for the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and Alliance for Equity in Higher Education's initiative to train future administrators in the Minority Serving Institution's Leadership Fellows Institute. She received her B.A. in Social Work and M.S. in Counselor Education from the University of Wyoming and her Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Management with a specialization in higher education administration from the University of Oregon.

Dr. Manuelito-Kerkvliet was selected from a pool of more than 40 candidates for the top post at Antioch Seattle. She moves from Bozeman, Mont., to become Antioch president July 15. She replaces Interim President Mark Hower, who took over the position last year after Dr. Toni Murdock, former Seattle campus president, stepped into the role as Antioch University's chancellor. Murdock now oversees six Antioch campuses across the nation.

When she announced Dr. Manuelito-Kerkvliet had accepted the presidency, Dr. Murdock noted, "She will be a great asset to the Seattle campus and wonderful addition to the University Leadership Council. She brings with her presidential experience and a strong commitment to higher education."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Flight - Sherman Alexie - Books - Review

Echoing the tragic events last week at Virginia Tech, Sherman Alexie’s latest novel, “Flight,” features a young, edgy outcast named Zits on the verge of colossal violence. Mr. Alexie is no stranger to this brand of gutsy writing. With 17 volumes of fiction and poetry to his name, he has established an impressive literary reputation as a bold writer who goes straight for the aorta. He is in the business of making his readers laugh and cry. And his most recent novel is no exception.

At its beginning, Mr. Alexie invokes the most famous opening line of literature: “Call me Zits.” Instead of a perilous hunt for a great white whale, this 15-year-old orphaned half-American-Indian pyromaniac undertakes a voyage of an entirely different dimension.

The reader meets Zits one morning when he is counting the pimples on his face (47 in all) in front of the bathroom mirror at the home of his newest set of foster parents. From the get-go, Mr. Alexie lets the reader in on the messy interior life of this marginalized teenager: “I’m dying from about ninety-nine kinds of shame. I’m ashamed of being fifteen years old. And being tall. And skinny. And ugly. I’m ashamed that I look like a bag of zits tied to a broomstick. I wonder if loneliness causes acne. I wonder if being Indian causes acne.”

Zits’s Indian father abandoned him shortly after birth. His mother, a fun-loving Irishwoman who sang Blood, Sweat & Tears tunes to Zits as an infant, died of breast cancer when he was only 6. Since then, Zits has been bouncing from foster home to foster home, school to school. “My entire life fits into one small backpack,” he says. At 8, he ran away for the first time. At 15, he is already a self-described drunk.

After Zits lands in a juvenile jail in the Central District of Seattle for the umpteenth time, he meets a white, pretty-boy anarchist named Justice, who schools him on how to take his sorry life into his own hands. Instead of opening fire on bystanders in a crowded bank, as Justice wanted, Zits finds himself on a time-traveling journey that traverses multiple centuries and transforms his worn-out soul in unexpected ways.

First Zits arrives in the compact body of Hank Storm, a white, blue-eyed F.B.I. agent who meets up with two Indian radicals on a dark backwoods road on the Nannapush Indian reservation in Red River, Idaho, about 1975. Then he resurfaces as a speechless Indian kid at the brink of the bloody battle led by Crazy Horse at Little Big Horn in 1876. Zits’s next conversion of flesh is as Augustus (or Gus) Sullivan, an aging, expert Indian tracker employed by the Army in the same era.

Mr. Alexie fast-forwards in time: his mouthy narrator inhabits Jimmy, a flight instructor who has to deal with the guilt-ridden aftermath when one of his students carries out a terrorist act in Chicago. And then, finally, Zits reincarnates into his father’s image, a homeless drunk who roots through trash bins for leftovers and, as it turns out, some bits and pieces of respect.

Many of these allegorical, action-packed vignettes tread familiar thematic territory — the continuing fight for survival, the anger of racial divides, the absence of fathers — of Mr. Alexie’s earlier works, like “Indian Killer” and “Ten Little Indians.” But with “Flight,” he takes these themes a step further: he skillfully explores both sides of the proverbial war. Zits witnesses brutal violence through the eyes of whites and Indians, fathers and sons, and he begins to understand what it means to be the hero, the villain and the victim.

Given the far-reaching scope of Mr. Alexie’s narrative, a reader might expect an epic of Melvillian proportions. Instead, in this slim volume (making it more novella than novel), Mr. Alexie manages to move effortlessly in and out of centuries like a person moving between waking and sleep.

Rather than getting bogged down in the details of seminal historical events, he telescopes to the most intimate moments, when his characters rise and fall. To sustain a compressed narrative continuum, recurring details — like the smell of beer and onions on a character’s breath or smashed-up model airplanes — surface in Zits’s consciousness.

Also, Mr. Alexie, a four-time World Poetry Bout champion, demonstrates his keen ear for voice; Zits rarely strays from the lively, sad incantations of his former 15-year-old self, regardless of whose skin he is in. “I miss my mother,” he says as he pilots a small plane as Jimmy. “I miss her all the time. I want to see her again. And now here I am in the body of a pilot as he flies. It makes sense. The last time my mother was happy she was on an airplane. So maybe this is my last place to be happy.”

By the novel’s conclusion, Mr. Alexie returns full circle to one of the subordinate themes of “Moby-Dick”: how human love and sympathy can save a life (found in the relationship of Ishmael and Queequeg). By offering perspectives from both sides of the battle, Mr. Alexie convincingly illustrates how no one can live alone, no matter what the situation.

“I open my eyes,” says Zits when he wakes up for the last time in the novel. “I think all the people in this bank are better than I am. They have better lives than I do. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe we’re all lonely. Maybe some of them also hurtle through time and see war, war, war. Maybe we’re all in this together.”

Right up to the novel’s final sentence, Mr. Alexie succeeds yet again with his ability to pierce to the heart of matters, leaving this reader with tears in her eyes.

Author Erdrich rejects UND honors over 'Fighting Sioux' nickname

Minnesota author Louise Erdrich has rejected an honorary degree from the University of North Dakota because it continues to use the "Fighting Sioux" team name and logo -- a contentious and litigious issue in Grand Forks.

In a letter to university President Charles Kupchella, Erdrich -- who has American Indian roots -- said that the offer means "a great deal" to her and that she would happily accept, were it not for the logo.

With that, the award-winning Minneapolis author of 11 novels and numerous other works joined a battle over whether the university should drop its logo and nickname. Last fall, university officials sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association over its finding that use of the logo and name is "hostile" and "abusive." A trial is set for December.

Kupchella expressed surprise and disappointment Thursday night, saying Erdrich's nomination came from some of the faculty members in Indian programs. He defends the logo as a beautiful symbol designed by a respected Indian artist. The university uses the name Fighting Sioux with "consummate respect" and the nearest Sioux tribe has given written permission, he has said.

Erdrich grew up in North Dakota, a state she says she still loves and where her nieces and nephew still live. The University of North Dakota educated members of her family and of her tribe, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

"I hate to do something like this," she said Thursday night. "It goes against my grain. But I do feel strongly about this symbol."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

For Indian Victims of Sexual Assault, a Tangled Legal Path

As a Cherokee woman charging rape by a non-Indian, Jami Rozell could not go to the tribal court, which handles only crimes by Indians against Indians in Indian country. So after five months of agonizing, she went to the district attorney in Tahlequah, Okla., and testified at a preliminary hearing.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, get up there in front of my family with all these men I’ve grown up with all my life,” said Ms. Rozell, now 25 and a first grade teacher in another town. But that was not the worst of it. The police, she said she was soon told, had cleaned up the evidence room and thrown out her rape kit, and with it all chances of prosecution.

However, Chief Stephen Farmer of the Tahlequah police says the department had received permission to destroy the evidence after Ms. Rozell initially declined to press charges.

Human rights advocates say such troubled cases involving Indian victims are common. And, American Indian women are voicing growing anger at what they call their disproportionate victimization in crimes of sexual assault, most often committed by non-Indians, and attitudes and laws that they say deter many from even reporting an attack.

“Indian women suffer two and a half times more domestic violence, three and a half times more sexual assaults, and 17 percent will be stalked — and I’m a victim of all three,” said Pauline Musgrove, executive director of the Spirits of Hope Coalition, an advocacy group in Oklahoma.

Now Amnesty International has taken up the issue, calling on Congress to extend tribal authority to all offenders on Indian land, not just Indians, and to expand federal spending on Indian law enforcement and health clinics.

In a report released yesterday, the American arm of the organization said sexual violence against American Indians had grown out of a long history of “systematic and pervasive abuse and persecution.”