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Indian leaders discuss history, society

By Kelly Mayo
News Editor

April 26, 2012

Photo by Kelly Mayo
Colorful, handmade Native American goods sit on display in the UC Annex during the conference April 12.
Several community leaders, researchers and guest speakers shared stories and traditions and debated problems facing the Native American community at the eighth annual Southeast Indian Studies Conference at UNCP on April 12 and 13.

About 90 students, community members, faculty and staff attended the conference's opening day in the UC Annex. Guests included representatives from the North Carolina Museum of History, Florida International University and North Carolina State University.

Faculty members from UNCP's Department of American Indian Studies, including Dr. Rose Stremlau and department chair Dr. Mary Ann Jacobs, also attended the conference.

The AIS department, the Museum of the Native American Resource Center and the Office of Academic Affairs sponsored the event.

Jerry Wolfe

Jerry Wolfe, Cherokee storyteller and presenter at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, delivered the conference's keynote address. He reminisced to the audience about childhood stickball games, polk and dandelion salads and the "warriors" dance Native American soldiers performed before and after going into battle.

Dr. Jacobs and Cynthia Locklear of the AIS department presented Wolfe with a gift of a UNCP t-shirt and pouch after he spoke.

Native research

UNCP Associate Professor Alfred Bryant and researchers from Wake Forest University gave a presentation on a research project they conducted with a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

The presentation revealed that Native Americans had higher suicide and homicide rates than any other race in the country, at 8.5 and 19.1 per 1,000 people, respectively.

The researchers also said that young Native Americans are at increasingly high risk of suicide, in large part because of a "bad home life" and other reasons.

The presentation also revealed that more than 20 percent of young Native Americans are obese, 18 percent used alcohol and almost 12 percent used marijuana.

The researchers studied youth participation in community-based classes on Lumbee history, regalia making and other cultural topics. After interviewing 31 kids ages 12 to 17, the researchers found that the kids' connection to their heritage and importance of Indian values and practices increased dramatically after taking the classes.

While the results of the research seemed promising, the researchers said that "there is little empirical information on the effectiveness" of community-based programs.

Danielle Hiraldo of the University of Arizona presented research on how relationships among the federal, state and Native Nations governments have evolved since before the American Revolution.

She gave examples of the Pamunkey tribe's Fish Hatchery, the Lumbee tribe's "social-service oriented" governing and the Waccamaw tribe's tax-exempt status on its tribal grounds as examples of how Native American governments clash and cooperate with each other.

Other presentations included a study on Southeastern Native American dress and an analysis of Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez's impact on the Indian population of South Florida in the 16th century.

After the presentations, attendees moved to Old Main and toured the Museum of the Native American Resource Center, where curator Dr. Stan Knick lectured on Lumbee history from 1400 to 1750.

Day two

The conference's second day featured presentations on Natchez slaves and refugees, the effects of colonialism on the Sappony tribe and violence in Ocmulgee Town in the 17th and 18th centuries.

AIS Assistant Professor Dr. Jane Haladay also led an analysis of the connection between food and Lumbee culture.

According to the AIS department, the conference is held to "provide a forum for discussion of the culture, history, art, health and contemporary issues of Native Americans in the Southeast."

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