Archive for the ‘University of Montana’ Category

Missoulian reporter Kim Briggeman takes us inside the Kyi-Yo powwow held on the University of Montana’s campus last weekend.

Three-year-old Jerome Vielle of Lethbridge, Alberta, waits for dancing to start during the grand entry of the Kyi-Yo Pow Wow on Saturday at the University of Montana. The powwow is the largest, longest-running, student-organized powwow in the country. (Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian)

It’s one of the oldest campus powwows around and this year was another celebration to remember.

    The sun is coming up on a new powwow season, the perfect time for Diana Cote of Arlee to bring her group of young drummers back to the University of Montana.

    “We’ve been singing ever since my boys were just babies,” Cote said Saturday as she waited to perform at the 44th annual Kyi-Yo Celebration. “My oldest boy is 40, so we’ve been singing for awhile.”

    Cote’s name in her native Bitterroot Salish is Scnpaqci – or Sunrise. That’s the name of her drum group, too.

    “You know when the sun first comes up, that’s when you awake, so when you think of sunrise you’re awaking to the drums,” she said. “So I always have youngsters at my drum. They’re just learning to sing.”

    The philosophy fit well into the theme of this year’s powwow – “Empowerment through Education.”

    Cote’s drum was set up on the east side of the Adams Center arena. Even as she spoke, another of the professional drum groups on the west side launched into a song with a pulsing beat.

    “We’re not entering into the contest because we’re not trying to say we’re the best or nothing,” Cote said. “We’re just honoring our way of life to sing and be one with the creator and earth.”
    Cote, who’ll turn 61 in June, said sometimes during the summer powwows she’ll notice a small boy or girl nearby watching the group.

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And don’t miss the video of Kyi-Yo.

As Missoulian reporter Chelsi Moy explains, Native Americans makes up the largest student minority at the University of Montana. And graduation rate of Native students lags far behind that of non-minorities.

That’s just one area of concern.

A new study released by university council at UM lays out all the work the institution has to do when it comes to diversity.

Native students on campus say more should be done to provide diversity classes for students. Also they say, the university should follow up with drop outs so it can better understand the problems.

Here’s Moy’s story:

    Walking across campus, the University of Montana may not appear all that diverse.

    However, a new report compiled by the President’s Diversity Advisory Council tells a different story. The report is a compilation of all the diversity efforts by individual schools and departments on campus. It’s a baseline study that the university plans to use to gauge its progress.

    “I was impressed on how many different units are doing really incredible work on all aspects of diversity,” said Lucy France, director of UM’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office.

    Some statistics, however, show there’s much that still needs to be done. Thirty-four percent of UM’s tenured faculty are female, 1 percent are American Indian and 7 percent are black, Hispanic or Asian. The university recently hired a diversity retention and recruitment coordinator to address the under-representation of females and minority faculty and staff, France said.
    White students make up 86 percent of the undergraduate population.

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Tuesday, April 12: The panel “Comparative Law in Indian Country” will look at the different and unique laws that exist within individual American Indian tribes in Montana. Panelists featured will be Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal attorney John Harrison, UM law Professor Elizabeth Kronk and Crow joint lead executive counsel Heather Whiteman Runs Him. The panelists will discuss what every Montanan should know when dealing with and doing business with individual tribes or when entering tribal land.

By Gwen Florio, of the Missoulian:

Some of the most important legal issues in Indian Country are the focus of a conference at the University of Montana School of Law this week.

Panel discussions during Indian Law Week will scrutinize matters beyond the $3 billion settlement in the Cobell v. Salazar Indian trust case that has been in the spotlight much of the last few years.

The week’s events, hosted by the Native American Law Student Association, begin with an examination of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Montana v. U.S. decision in 1981, a ruling that has proved problematic for tribes for three decades now.

The last paragraph of the decision severely limited tribes’ ability to regulate non-Indians on “fee” land – that is, land that lies within reservations but isn’t owned by a tribe.

That single paragraph has been cited on issues from personal injury to taxation, zoning and water rights, said UM law professor Raymond Cross.

“This has become the Swiss Army knife of non-Indian defense … ,” he said. “The practical fallout is quite substantial.”

Cross will join Crow tribal attorney Urban Bear Don’t Walk Sr. and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Appellate Judge Cher Stewart on a panel discussing the topic at noon Monday.

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Jim Watts, center, of Browning helps his sons James, left, and Austin with their regalia as they get ready to dance on Saturday at the Kyi-Yo Pow Wow in Missoula. Watts said he’s danced since he was a boy, and now he sees his kids starting to understand how dancing connects them to their people. (Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian)

The 43rd annual Kyi-Yo powwow at the University of Montana will be held April 15 and 16 in the Adams Center. It’s a staple of spring events in Missoula.

As the Kaimin reports, it’s recovering this year from a funding debacle that left drummers and dancers without prize money while the university floundered to cover its part of the pot.

Here’s Heidi Grovers, of the Kaimin’s story:

When Dustin Monroe approaches Missoula business owners and asks them to donate to this year’s Kyi-Yo Powwow, he knows it won’t be an easy sell.

He comes prepared with a budget and his most earnest explanation of what his club is doing to prepare for one of the largest events on The University of Montana campus.

The Kyi-Yo Powwow is an irreplaceable event, but one with a tainted reputation after fundraising and organizing efforts fell short last year, Monroe said.

“A lot of people in the community blamed all UM native students, not just the Kyi-Yo organizers,” said Monroe, who is a graduate of the UM School of Business and vice president of this year’s Kyi-Yo Native American Student Association, which organizes the powwow. “A lot of students who were not involved before are taking on the personal challenge this year to make sure it succeeds.”

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T.J. Wolfname, Whitney Snow and Jazra Michel (left to right) enjoy a bowl of soup together Friday afternoon during the bi-weekly Soup Friday put on by the American Indian Student Services at the University of Montana. Soup Friday was started two years ago by AISS to build relationships on campus between Native and non-Native students, faculty and staff. (Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian)

By Chelsi Moy, of the Missoulian.

On a day when the mercury outside was well below freezing, beef stew and chicken soup seemed to hit the spot.

Yet it’s not the weather that brings folks to Soup Fridays.

It’s the camaraderie.

Every other week, American Indian Student Services organizes Soup Friday, which is where University of Montana students, faculty and staff, Native and non-Native alike, congregate in the student lounge of the Payne Family Native American Center to enjoy a hearty bowl of stew, chili or soup.

It’s a tradition that began two years ago when Fredricka Hunter took over as director of American Indian Student Services and saw the informal lunch as a way to build community on campus, bridge cultures and, now, to utilize the new Native American Center building.

It’s an opportunity for Native and non-Native students to build relationships, and way to invite non-Native students into the new building.

Before noon, Hunter goes around to each student hunched over books in the Native American Center and invites them in for a bowl of soup.

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Indian leaders from the Crow Reservation watch during part of a May ceremony to celebrate the new Payne Family Native American Center on the campus of the University of Montana. Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Indian leaders from the Crow Reservation watch during part of a May ceremony to celebrate the new Payne Family Native American Center on the campus of the University of Montana. Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Dedicated barely six months ago, University of Montana’s new Payne Family Native American Center is set to receive a premier environmental award on Friday. A a 12:30 p.m. public ceremony in the University Center Ballroom is planned.

The Pacific Northwest International Section of the Air & Waste Management Association is presenting the center with its Environmental Achievement award, according to a UM press release.

    The building, which houses the University’s Department of Native American Studies, American Indian Student Services and related campus programming, is expected to receive LEED Gold certification.

    As part of its Climate Action Plan, UM has made a commitment that all new buildings on campus meet the certification requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council to be at least up to the LEED Silver rating. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

    “The University of Montana is pleased to receive this prestigious Environmental Achievement award that highlights the LEED certification features of The Payne Family Native American Center,” said UM President Royce Engstrom. “The center is a wonderful example of the University’s commitment to sustainability, as well as its commitments to Native American education.”

UM student Keith Rock comments on the racial implications of the “Twilight” series and the movie New Moon. Rock, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, says that people often project stereotypes on him, and movies like this don’t help. (Copyright Steel Brooks 2010)

UM student Keith Rock comments on the racial implications of the “Twilight” series and the movie New Moon. Rock, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, says that people often project stereotypes on him, and movies like this don’t help. (Copyright Steel Brooks 2010)

A panel at the University of Montana this week analyzed the portrayal of Native Americans in the uber-popular “Twilight” vampire movie series, focusing on the shirtless teenager Jacob Black, a Native American who can turn into a werewolf.

The panel members for the University Student Involvement program hosted “Keeping Jacob on the Reservation: Is Twilight Racist?” event recognized that the movie can’t be taken too seriously, but saw several themes as concerning, the Montana Kaiman reported.

Black, and a the rest of the pack of werewolves (all Native) are a central part to the series of movies. Black, human Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen are tangled in a love web complicated by the dangers of evil vampires that hunt the Cullen family and Swan. Vampires and the Native werewolves are sworn enemies.

The most concerning issue: domestic violence themes in scenes with the werewolf pack.

    (University of Montana Assistant Journalism Professor and Director of Native American Journalism Projects Jason) Begay said he saw an obvious domestic violence analogy in one scene, where a Native American woman has a scarred face because her werewolf husband, as the movie explains, ‘got angry once’ and injured her. “Even without the [werewolf] metaphor, that scene is a striking commentary on domestic violence,” Begay said.

    UM student and Blackfeet tribal member Keith Rock said Twilight plays into racist stereotypes. “As a Native American male, I am just assumed to have hurt a woman,” he said. “I saw that in the film, and it was just a slap in the face.”

Navajo Times reporter Jason Begay, whose excellent work has often been featured on Buffalo Post, is returning to the University of Montana as the most recent addition to the School of Journalism faculty.

As Missoulian editor Sherry Devlin writes here in her Missoula Editor blog:

    I got to know Jason a number of years ago, while teaching Public Affairs Reporting at the journalism school. He was a student in my class and an inspiration to everyone in the class – myself included. He is truly one of the most gifted journalists I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with.

Begay, who will be an assistant professor at UM and also direct the RezNet online news feed, has worked at the New York Times, The Oregonian, Duluth News Tribune, the Wichita Eagle and The Oakland Tribune.


Gwen Florio

UM JschoolEvery year, an honors project at the University of Montana’s Journalism School focuses on Indian Country, work that has won national awards over the years. This year’s project, on health care in Indian Country, looks to continue that tradition. Below, the introduction to the project. Go to its website, with stories, photos and videos, here.

    American Indians have had government-supplied health care since tribes ceded ancestral land to the United States in exchange for certain promised benefits. Why, then, are American Indians as a population sicker than other Americans and dying at much younger ages?

    The American government’s delivery on the promise of health care has had a rocky history. Responsibility over the centuries has shifted from the War Department to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Indian Health Service. Tribes themselves have shared oversight for health care since the Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. Yet still the disparity in the health status of Americans remains.

    Indians are 500 percent more likely to contract tuberculosis, 519 percent more likely to become alcoholics, and 195 percent more likely to develop diabetes. They also have a 149 percent higher rate of accidental injury, and are 72 percent more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

    The reasons are both social and economic. Poverty, access to care, social problems and a lack of funding to meet more than basic needs have compounded the health issues of this nation’s first peoples.

    The University of Montana School of Journalism’s Native News Honors class examined some issues that affect the health of Indians on the state’s seven reservations and those enrolled tribal members who live away from the reservations. In this issue you’ll find stories that shed light on the cultural and physical distances that many Indians encounter when seeking health care, and others that examine the problems of youth suicide, alcoholism and water sanitation. Other stories show the progress Montana tribes are making to heal their communities, such as implementing cultural advocacy groups and alcoholism treatment programs.

    The stories are as varied as each Montana reservation and tribe. But, underneath them all is hope for a better future, and hope that, in time, the state’s Indian tribes will regain the health and vigor that for centuries made them a resilient people.

Gwen Florio

Two tribal leaders watch Thursday morning as speakers dedicate the Bonnie HeavyRunner space in the new Payne Family Native American Center at the University of Montana. Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Two tribal leaders watch Thursday morning as speakers dedicate the Bonnie HeavyRunner space in the new Payne Family Native American Center at the University of Montana. Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Joe Medicine Crow, who counted coup on German soldiers during World War II, counted coup again this morning on the University of Montana’s Payne Family Native American Center as part of daylong ceremonies officially dedicating UM’s newest building.

“Now I have counted coup on this door to open it up so people can come in and join us,” said Medicine Crow. Traditionally, warriors would count coup on a new lodge, or tepee, before it was used and Medicine Crow and other veterans duplicated that tradition this morning.

The day began as hundreds of people from Montana’s seven Indian reservations and the landless Little Shell Band of Chippewa wound their way from the Adams Center to the new building on the Oval in a “coming home” walk.

Students from the Nkwusm Salish language immersion school in Arlee drummed and sang at the head of the procession, which also included UM President George Dennison.

“It’s an honor because they had so many other people, but they chose us to lead,” said Coral Sherman, 12, a student at the school.
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