Summit to celebrate Native Americans

The Association of Native Americans at Yale is hosting the 2007 All-Ivy Native Council Summit, a conference that will welcome approximately 65 Native American students attending Ivy League and other nearby universities.

The summit, which will begin today and run through Dec. 2,, is intended to foster networking opportunities for Native American students and provide the Yale community with a medium to learn more about Native issues and campus life, organizers said. This year marks the first time the summit will be held at Yale, ANAAY member Maya Bernadett ’08 said.

The summit will kick off today with a traditional Iroquois social and welcome dinner at the Afro-American Cultural Center featuring traditional, home-cooked Native American food and live Native American music.

The weekend will feature a series of lectures and discussions on topics ranging from Native American understanding of the intersection between religion and ecology to the effort to bring ethnic and American Indian studies to college campuses. Yale professors John Grim and Alyssa Mt. Pleasant and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Debbie Reese will be speaking to groups of students in an effort to increase awareness and understanding of Native issues and efforts on campuses, ANAAY President Nolan Smith-Kaprosy ’10 said.

Smith-Kaprosy said he hopes non-Native students will also be interested in attending the events in order to learn more about the perspectives of some of their peers.

“We chose a wide range of issues that students at Yale might be interested in,” Smith-Kaprosy said. “We thought it’d be a great way to come together to educate people at Yale and allow them to learn more about Native people and to see things from a Native perspective. They may see why things like dressing up as Native people for Halloween is not OK and not respectful.”

Smith-Kaprosy said there will be opportunities for all students to learn about Native cultures in a more social manner, such as during a traditional Iroquois social and welcome dinner during which students will be able to learn and perform traditional Native American dances.

“It’s a really unique cultural experience and goes outside of stereotypes,” Smith-Kaprosy said.

Native American Cultural Center Director Shelly Lowe said part of the purpose of the summit is to provide Native students with a chance to form a community that spans the Ivy League. Lowe said that because Native American communities can be a very small part of a larger campus, networking with other Native American students is important.

“It can be really isolating coming out to the Northeast, to an Ivy League institution,” Lowe said.

Lowe said it is helpful for these students to know they have peers at other schools who are going through similar experiences and that their communities at home care about the support systems available to students.

“[Tribes] really care what are the resources available that the institution has and that is in the area,” Lowe said.

Alex Harding ’08, who does not belong to a cultural organization, said when attending events in which he has been in the minority, he felt uncomfortable at first but eventually got used to it. He said it is important for the cultural group to invite a more diverse community to encourage greater attendance.

But he also said he knows cultural groups often “make a specific effort to reach out to other people in the community.”

“I really appreciate that,” Harding said. “I don’t think that they should think they have to always reach out to other people. If they want to have a forum to think about issues that are specific to themselves, I understand that.”

The All-Ivy Native Council, a student organization comprising representatives from all Ivy League schools, hosts two conferences a year — a summit in the fall and a larger event in the spring.

The Yale College Dean’s Office, the Native American Cultural Center, the Office of Diversity and Educational Opportunity, the American Studies Program, the Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders and the Yale President’s Office provided support for this year’s summit, Lowe said.

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