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K-State Today

February 24, 2017

Student group hosts Native American leadership summit

Submitted by LaVerne Bitsie-Baldwin

The Kansas State University student chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and K-State Student Governing Association Diversity Programming Committee co-sponsored the Midwest Native American Student Leadership Summit Feb. 18 at the K-State Alumni Center.

Attendees included representatives from the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Wichita State University, Emporia State University, Kansas State University, Lawrence Public Schools and the Manhattan community.

This year was the first time the summit was hosted at Kansas State University, according to LaVerne Bitsie-Baldwin, faculty adviser for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and director of the Multicultural Engineering Program at K-State.

Speakers included Brice Obermeyer, professor at Emporia State University and director of the Delaware Tribe Historic Preservation Office; Jen Coppoc, lecturer at Iowa State University; Eric Anderson, chair of the department of the indigenous and American Indian studies at Haskell Indian Nations University; Bitsie-Baldwin; and K-State chapter members.

Topics included American Indian civil rights, the art of resistance, public history and community leadership. Participants learned about the Civil Rights Law — the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act — that protects indigenous grave sites, human remains and ceremonial items. The law provides a process for museums, researchers and private collectors to return human remains and culturally affiliated items of indigenous tribes.

"I didn't know a lot about the topics discussed, so it was really eye-opening to see the ways Natives have impacted the nation while trying to stay true to ourselves," said Caden Hilger, junior in mechanical engineering and vice president of the society.

"I gained real insight in how to promote our heritage by making statements in creative ways that will get our voices out there," he said. 

One presentation, "Art of Resistance: from Alcatraz to Standing Rock," gave participants a challenge to understand art and music as an ongoing form of protest and resistance. Examples included the 90-day takeover of Alcatraz in 1969 by indigenous groups, to current videos, art and music produced to support the water protectors at Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota, opposing construction of a pipeline near their water source.

"The goal of the Midwestern Native American Student Leadership Summit was to provide, through education and awareness, a voice for Native American issues we are engaged with in this region," said Jael Whitney, junior in marketing and chair for the summit.