Saturday, December 29, 2012

Native American Education: Some Thoughts after talking with Haskell students

“An education saved my life.” These were the words I spoke to a class room of Native American students attending Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence Kansas. There have been other words spoken at Native American schools that were intended to support the education of “Indians.” Rev J.A. Lippincott, in 1898, gave the commencement speech to Carlisle Indian School graduates. Here was his message to advocate for Native Americans becoming educated.

"the Indian is DEAD in you.” "Let all that is Indian within you die!...You cannot become truly American citizens, industrious, intelligent, cultured, civilized until the INDIAN within you is DEAD."

That statement in 1898 during the time when America was trying to figure out how to educate “savages” benefited the expanding America more than Native Americans. Haskell began educating Natives Americans in 1884 mainly as a way to train young Native Americans on how to become just, Americans. Although the boarding schools in the 1880s forced Native American children to attend educational institutions, Haskell School today is a university for any enrolled tribal member.

            Another predominate statement from the past efforts of forced cultural assimilation of Native American children was “Kill the Indian save the man.” Brigadier General Richard Henry Pratt was the founder and superintendent of the Carlisle Indian School. His plan was to kill the Native American by way of teaching them to be an American. Genocide was becoming much more difficult to justify so his ideal was to send out an army of teachers to produce cultural genocide.

            Schools were built or existing buildings were converted. Native American children were forcibly removed from their parents and communities. Children had their hair cut, made to wear military-style uniforms, not allowed to speak any language other than English, and physically, mentally, spiritually, and sexually abused.  Although the official policies that allowed for boarding schools ended around the 1940s, some schools converted into typical teaching institutions. Haskell Indian Nations University is one of the converts. It has a long and complicated educational history. Some of the children who were forced to attend in the 1800s did not ever have a chance to make it back to their parents, communities, or cultural ways of life. Haskell Indian Nations University has its own grave yard. The little white head stones with names of children who passed while attending the school and not returned back to their parents represents both standard genocide and cultural genocide. Native Americans and education have a complicated relationship. Trying to deal with this issue is complicated. So, my talk at Haskell had to be unpretentious, humble, and most important, helpful.

I was set to speak at three different classes: two back-to-back classes in the business department, with Dr. Jim Bliven, and one social work class after lunch.

The building where Dr. Bliven’s classes were held looked like the high school I attended in the late 1970’s. The hallways were bland, with institutional non-colored walls and tile floor. Like me, Dr. Bliven is a mixed blood, except he is Hispanic and Native American. He had coal black hair and goatee. He came in to class with baked goods and drinks for everyone. As he introduced me he asked that everyone be sure to help themselves to the food. It was obvious that his class is very laid back, as he is.  I stood in front of a large chalk board that already had my name written across one side. I looked out on the students, seated in perfectly even rows of tables and chairs. Many of the men wore coats and ties, and the women were in dresses. It turned out to be “Dress up Day” on campus.

I wanted to send three very strong points about what it takes to be successful in college. My agenda that morning had been stewing in my mind and developing over several years.

“Getting an education has nothing to do with intelligence,” I told them. Although they seemed a bit surprised at first, some shook their heads in agreement. “A person does not have to have a high IQ to succeed in college. A strong belief system is much more powerful than a strong IQ.” There were more heads nodding in agreement.

 A strong support system is also very powerful; in order to be successful, students must have a group of people who bolster their efforts of getting an education. I have never heard of a successful student who finished college without outside support. It takes help from family members, friends, professors, and any other person who has a positive, motivating influence. The “loner” does not do too well in college. A loner is someone who is isolated, cut off from connections of supportive others. They could miss a class, several classes and no one would notice. American public universities are not designed to accommodate individuals or an individual’s personal problems. Having a support system in place when personal problems do happen, it vital to success in higher education. 

The final thing I wanted these students to leave with was hope. I told them, if I could succeed in college, anybody can. Students are doomed without some level of hopefulness about thriving in college. A strong belief system, a strong support group and hope are the primary ingredients for success in any educational institution.

Clearly and efficiently expressing these important themes is the challenge. In the midst of attending college, I think young people depend more on their overall survival skills than thinking about or strategizing specific productive actions. Entering college is an entirely new environment that young people are expected to navigate on their own; they have left the security and familiarity of their home base, and face new responsibilities and demands, academically, socially, and financially. This reliance on survival skills is especially true for minority youth and particularly for Native Americans, who face far more obstacles than the general challenges of adjusting to the college environment. The only reason Native Americans still exist today is because they fought to survive. From the time that Columbus arrived, throughout the great American expansion, there was an enormous, coordinated effort to rid America of these “savages.”
Survival instincts are in our blood, a hereditary response that has been passed down from our ancestors, whether they were warriors or peace keepers. Our strong survival methods can either be a gift or a curse. During times when our lives are stressed or challenged, like getting an education, if we use these survival skills in a good way along with following a planned-out, organized strategy, we can accomplish just about any task we might face. However, if we only use our survival skills with no plans, we are more likely to retreat to a safe, familiar stance, which often results in rigidity, defiance, and overall failure. Armed with passed-down, gene-level resilience and well-designed plans, we can conquer any challenge.     Peace in the New Year, DAP

Sunday, November 25, 2012

American Indian/Alaskan Native College Success Stories

As you may know American Indians/Native Alaskans have some of the highest college drop rates in the US. We are trying to understand why this problem continues. Because you graduated from a college/university with an undergraduate degree, you are a success story.

I would be honored if you would consider answering the question below. We are collecting stories, hoping to create a document and book that can be used to understand the issues for American Indians/Native Alaskans remaining in college. We hope to compile and provide these stories for students who are thinking about attending college or currently a student.

Please note: We will seek your full approval before any of your words are provided to the public.

Thank you very much and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Please send response to

I look forward to hearing from you soon, Peace, DAP
Question: Given the fact that American Indians/Native Alaskans have such a high dropout rate from college, what was the main factor for you staying in college when you were an undergraduate student?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Native American Beliefs or Coincidence

Coincidence: A sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged

What many people think might be a simple coincidence, Native Americans would believe as being a message. As I discussed in my past post ( , I am a potential bone marrow match for a two-year old boy with bone cancer. Further testing was set for me Monday, November 5th, 2012. It was set many days ago and I have been willing, ready and able. I have tried to patiently wait for that day to arrive. When it did finally arrive I got to the hospital early and signed in.

All I could think about was that little boy and his family. They have probably spent many hours in a medical setting, similar to a place where I sat to give my blood. My appointment was at 8am and I was called back about 8:10am. I was asked for my ID and insurance card. I explained that I was there as the result of the bone marrow agency’s request and they had made the appointment and instructed me not to give my insurance card. The worker asked how the appointment had been made – fax, email, phone call? I was not sure and said that.

She looked through a file of papers, and then left the room. I tried to remain calm hoping that all would be well and she would find what was needed. After several minutes, she returned stating that she had “found it.” She was smiling now and less cold toward me as she had been when I first sat down. I wanted to make sure that all things were in order and my blood made it to its destination in a timely manner and safe. As she began to complete some forms, I explained that a two-year old boy needed a transplant and I was a potential match. I said this not to direct any attention toward me, but to signal to her that this situation is serious and the blood sample must get to the boy’s doctor safely.

I was happy to feel the mood turn from just collecting blood for general medical tests to an act of helping a boy and his family. After she collected all of the blood needed and was done with me, she let me know I was all done and that she would make sure the paper work was correctly completed and that she would pray that this was a match.

These past days have been emotional for me. If I think too much about this situation I become overwhelmed and have to hold back tears. I can’t speak about it without crying. I left that hospital praying and thinking about this family. Good thoughts have been part of my daily routine.

As I traveled to work, running late for a meeting, I approached the bridge crossing the Missouri River. The water has been down in the River and every time I cross I always try to look over the River and monitor what is happening. I cross the Missouri almost every day, so it is familiar to me. While I have a purpose to look closely at the River, sometimes I get distracted and miss my chance to look at the water moving along, the changing river bank, the tree leaves transforming their colors, and boats moving along the water.

While my mind was still on this boy, his family and the safe travels of my blood, I looked out to my right and spotted a Bald Eagle flying along parallel to me and traveling at the same speed. He was crossing the Missouri at the same height, speed, and time as me. As we both reach the River’s bank, I continued on my route and He, his.    

For readers who do not know the significance of seeing a Bald Eagle, especially in St Charles Missouri, I will not go into it. For those who know, there is no need to go into it. Returning back to the idea of the title of something being a coincidence or not, some folks would label this event as being a coincidence, happenstance, or some kind of a fluke. On the other hand, my People’s beliefs would label this as a message, a signal, a sign. They would say I should pay close attention to this message. They might say it is a Spirit Guide. Coincidence is a word used when someone is unsure about an event.

This event indicates, at least to me, that I am on a good path. How could I not be…my Spirit Guide is on the same path! Also on this path are the sick boy and his family. We have joined together. Although we have never met and I do not know their names or where they live, our paths have crossed. It is not a coincidence that I live in Missouri. It is not a coincidence I got my cheek swab in 1994 for the bone marrow registry. It is not a coincidence that I received a message as a potential match. And it is not a coincidence that a Bald Eagle crossed the Missouri River on the same time and important date as me.

This is a message…a strong one. We are all on a path, a good one. How do I know this for sure? Just stay tuned!   
Peace, DAP

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mitakuye Oyasin, All my Relations, We are all Related

Mitakuye Oyasin is a Lakota saying that translates closely to All my relations or We are all related. We are all connected in some kind of way. In nature all things are connected. Connectedness indicates balance and harmony. All things are connected and all things need the other thing to survive.

This ideal is expressed in a different way, like; you are your brother’s keeper. If we are all connected then your health and wellness is connected with my own health. Your good life ensures my own. On the other hand, if something bad comes your way, that badness will surely find me. I should not wish ill on others as this illness will relocate inside of me – because we are one.

My wife, Nikki, and I have birthdays in October. This year we were fortunate enough to visit San Francisco for a few days between our birthday dates. We attended to the typical tourist activities such as ride a trolley, visit the sea lions at the fishermen’s wharf, walk around China Town and had a strong coffee in the Height-Ashbury district.

We also had the chance to visit the Muir Woods. We wanted to see some large California trees and this park was only about 30 minutes from our hotel. While we were amazed at many things in that relatively small forest, what I really liked is that the trees grew in “families.” Many stood in a circle, standing tall. While they might seem as different, separate living beings, underneath, they are connected. They are connected by their roots.


Their roots connect all of them together. A disease comes to one, they are all doomed. The tree families survive together, they also wither as one. When one family is in danger, the entire forest is jeopardized.

All Related

All of these thoughts were swirling around in my head as we walked through the forest. The applicability of these ideals was made real after an email I received just before leaving for San Fran.  
In 1994 I gave a cheek swab to the National Marrow Donor Program. Almost 20 years later, they contacted me. They said I was a possible match for someone who needed a marrow donation as the result of having cancer.

I called the number and spoke to a lady who said that a two year old boy had a certain cancer, she said the specific cancer type, but I was so broken hearted that the cancer’s name went right past my ear.

When I thought about that two year old boy, all I could picture was my own sons. I thought about his parents and family, and how terrified they must be. I would be very sick and an emotional wreck if my two year old had cancer – heck I’m sick just hearing about this child.

I go for further tests 11/5/12 to see if I’m the best match for this child. I pray that there is a match for this sick child. I pray that I am the best match. I pray that we are all related.

Mitakuye Oyasin, Become a donor, Peace, DAP

Monday, October 8, 2012

Indigenous People's Day

Today, Monday, October 8, 2012 is Indigenous People's Day. It is celebrated as columbus day, by many, but to us, we celebrate differently. Unfortunately it remains a federal holiday under the wrong title. This should be a day to recognize Indigenous Peoples. There are many folks who would celebrate it as a day for the discovery of a "new world" by a lost and confused traveler. For Indigenous folks, it is a day to celebrate our survival and all of our own discoveries.

I can understand the urge by Indigenous People to use this day to hate its original intent. However, hate only hurts the hater. So by hating someone who hurt us many years ago, the hurt is re-experienced and the consequences are just as relevant today.

It is time to celebrate this day only in the form of Love. Just as hate has its own outcomes on the hater, Love has its outcomes as well. Love only rewards, never punishes. Expressing Love on this day is the best and most beneficial for our People. Living a long, healthy, happy, and loving life is the best way to celebrate. It will ensure that there will be many more years of celebration and many more healthy Indigenous folks to be around to celebrate.

Enjoy this day and spread Love. There have been too many years of hate and the negative effects it produces.

Peace, DAP

Friday, September 21, 2012

How are gifted students and their schools measured? According to NYT article it is by race

With the New York Times only allowing ten free online views of their articles per month, I am very selective when clicking on a news article to read. I usually stick to the opinion pages and the education sections. A headline caught my eye “Young, Gifted and Neglected” on September 18th. It met an important standard to use up one of my viewings; it is about education in the U.S.  It was written by Chester E. Finn Jr. whose bio indicates he has been studying the US educational system for many years, written many books, and is a senior fellow at an institute.

The article is about how “gifted” school aged children are being neglected in our educational system. If you don’t want to use up one of your ten free NYT looks, allow me to provide a synopsis. Mr. Finn makes an opening argument that “Every motivated, high-potential young American deserves a similar opportunity” for a “…rigorous private…” education. Unfortunately, according to Mr. Finn “…the system is failing to create enough opportunities for…these high-potential…” kids. Our public educational system not only neglects our “high-ability students” it also “…imperils the country’s future supply of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs.”

He states that there are three forms of education’s systemic failures:

1.       We are weak at identifying gifted and talented children early;

2.       At the primary and middle-school levels, we don’t have enough gifted-education classrooms; and

3.       There are too few honor and advanced placement classes sometime populated by kids who are bright but not truly prepared to succeed in them.

Mr. Finn’s main focus for the rest of the article is on the third issue of advanced placement classes and the type of kids attending them. He indicates that there are more than 20,000 public high schools and his team found just 165 “exam schools.” Exam schools or advanced placement schools are those developed for high-ability and highly motivated students. He lists a few examples of these type schools and who are most likely to be enrolled.

He and his team built a list of these U.S exam schools, visited a few, and found that they mostly resemble Advanced Placement classes. They have stellar college placements, expose students to independent studies, have challenging internships and conduct individual research projects.

Now…all seemed well to this point in his article until he says that “Critics call them (e.g. exam schools) elitist, but we found the opposite.” First I had to make sure I understood the definition of the word “elitist” so I looked it up. It means, exclusive, selective, and restricted. So, what he is saying is that the 165 exam schools are not exclusive, selective and restricted. How does he know these are not, in fact, elitist schools? He provides the demographic data of the students who attend them.

According to Mr. Finn, the reason these schools are not elitist is because “African-American youngsters are ‘overrepresented’ in them and Asian-Americans staggeringly so (21 percent versus 5 percent in high schools overall). Latinos are underrepresented, but so are whites.”

According to Mr. Finn and his team, these can’t be elitist schools that serve high-ability and highly motivated students because African-Americans are the majority and whites are the minority.

I kept waiting to read what else made these advance placements, exam schools less than elitist. Did they produce poor results? No, he says they are great schools with “stellar” college placements. Are they not good for our U.S. student population? No, he states that “many more students could benefit from schools like these…”

He strongly argues for more rigorous private schools for gifted students. He also strongly states that public schools should stop raising the floor of education (e.g. helping the non-gifted) and raising the ceiling of education (e.g., helping gifted students).

That argument is perfectly fine. I agree that schools can do both. The main problem is Mr. Finn’s measure of what a “gifted” student looks like. According to him, gifted is measured by race. It seems if an exam school has a high percent of other than white students, it is “opposite” of elitist. And it seems that Mr. Finn’s article, Young, Gifted and Neglected, was not only a bad use of one of my ten NYT viewing for the month, it is a bad argument to use for improving education for all children.

The article can be read by clinking link below: (disclaimer, click at risk of wasting a click)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Can Native American College Drop Out Be Decreased?

Native American (NA) students have the highest dropout rate of any high school or college student population.  I can attest to this as a researcher, as a former high school dropout, and as a Native American. Education saved my life.  Now I am working to provide meaningful support to other NAs. I first tried to address the high dropout rate once I completed a doctoral program and began working for the University at Buffalo. I developed a NA research center that was involved in many activities that supported NAs and other students. I set up a scholarship and mentorship mechanism, developed the beginning processes of a study abroad course, and established a NA specific living and learning program.  Currently, I am working on a social belonging intervention at Washington University in St Louis’s Brown School of Social Work. When I am asked to describe programs that provide the best support for NA students and might help them remain in college, I describe living and learning programs, social belonging activities, and providing some level of self-regulated learning curriculums.

NA students dropping out of college throughout the United States are well-documented. Although retention rates differ for all student populations, related to demographics, the gap is greatest specifically among NA students. There are data showing that 75 percent to 93 percent of NA students drop out of college before completing. The number of NA high school drop outs is about the same. It is a sad fact that if NA students do get a high school diploma and enroll in college, they have the highest rate of dropping out from college compared to any other student demographic. Although NA students are academically capable, a number of reasons contribute to this population having the highest educational dropout rate in the U.S.

Instead of more speculation and research, colleges and universities should begin to implement specific strategies that have shown promise in retaining the NA student. There are three I would like to recommend that have some support in research studies and could significantly disrupt the continued problem of college dropout for NAs.

1.      Living & Learning Communities

The idea of connecting and integrating student learning with student living began to take shape under philosopher, university administrator and free speech advocate Alexander Meiklejohn. The theory behind living and learning communities is that students will persist and excel in college if they are given the opportunity to integrate their social and academic lives. According to those who have studied these programs, when students join together around commonly shared academic and/or social interests, their college experience is much more likely to be positive and they are more likely to remain in college. After researching different models of the living and learning programs over many years, it has been determined that regardless of the model’s design, intensity or any other characteristic, living and learning communities significantly impacts student’s college experiences, increases their grade point average (GPA), and increases their retention.  

            Several studies have addressed the issue of family, community, and cultural connectedness and the effect on academic achievement for NA students. Living & learning communities lend themselves to interconnected, supportive environments. NA students should find ways to hold onto their own cultural identities in academic life. Maintaining cultural identity increases students’ self-awareness and the chances that they will remain in and complete college.

2.      Social Belonging Intervention

Social belonging is defined as a perception of having positive relationships with other people within one's community and this sense of social belonging is essential during young adulthood and times when transitioning into a new and unfamiliar community, such as a college campus. Socially stigmatized groups like NA students might be more uncertain about their social belonging in mainstream institutions like college campus than non-minority groups.

In a randomized controlled trial, 49 African American and 43 non-minority first year students in the treatment group received a social belonging message framed in a way that conveyed that college adversity was shared by all students and was short-lived. The researchers were surprised by the magnitude of improvement over the three year period of the study. The social belonging intervention improved GPA, health status, retention, and also reduced doctor visits during students’ time in college.

Native American students, who are the minority within the minority, are most uncertain about their sense of belonging on college campuses. An intervention that specifically targets social belonging will impact them more significantly than non-minorities. When NA students understand that all students feel out of place and question their academic abilities, their own feelings become normalized. This simple, brief, social belonging message, when provided to minority college students, resulted in higher GPA and retention rates, which could greatly impact NAs on college campuses.

3.      Incorporating NA Learning Styles – Self-regulated Learning

In the late 1980s a larger university implemented a unique critical thinking course for undergraduate students. The course primarily focused on cognitive psychology and philosophy issues connected with the theory of Self-regulated Learning (SRL). A review of the data revealed a significant difference in retention and graduation rates, on average, between all students and NA students who took the SRL course and those who did not.

Success Metric
All Students
   NA Students
Retention to Second Year
Retention to Third Year
Retention to Fourth Year
Graduation in 4 Years
Graduation in 5 Years
Graduation in 6 Years
Undergraduate QPA


Native American students who participated in the SRL course, compared to the university’s general population, had higher retention rates as they progressed, higher graduation rates, and a higher overall GPA. The difference between NA students who participated and those not are just as impressive. Native American students who completed the SRL course had higher retention rates, graduation rates, and overall higher GPA scores, compared to NA students who did not participate in the SRL course.

There are three major constructs of SRL theory that are connected across theoretical opinions: (1) the student’s learning style; (2) the student’s ability to influence and predict their daily academic life; and (3) peer assessment and feedback. Considering the high overall success of NA students participating in the SRL course, certain components within the SRL course seem to connect with this population’s thinking and learning styles.  While there has been a debate whether NA students have their own cultural learning styles, thinking and learning is grounded in one’s culture. Because the goals of SRL are to understand one’s own learning style, coordination between teaching and learning strategies could benefit NA students. One of the main reasons for dropouts among NA students is unsuitable matching of learning styles. SRL courses may reduce the conflicting expectations between NA students and instructors.

Concluding Thought


There is still ambiguity about how to address the low retention rates of NA students in U.S. universities. While it is important to continue studying the issues, it is past time to disrupt this on-going tragedy with some scientifically-supported interventions. Living and learning communities, social belonging interventions, and more self-regulated learning opportunities can begin to deflect the process of dropping out of colleges and university programs. To allow the injustices that result from NA student college dropout to continue within our own institutions of learning is unacceptable.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Studying Native American Gaming

Senior research scientist Grace Barnes, PhD, principal investigator on the grant "Ecological and Sociocultural Influences on Native Americans Gambling and Alcohol Use," says the study will examine the effects of gambling availability and socio-demographic factors on the frequency of gambling and co-occurring alcohol abuse among Native Americans in the U.S."

This is an important complement to the ongoing national study of gambling in the U.S. currently being conducted at RIA," says Barnes.

The research team working with Dr. Barnes includes Dr. John Welte and Dr. Marie Tidwell co-investigators in the ongoing U.S. gambling study, as well as two experts in Native American research: David Patterson-Silver Wolf (Adelv unegv Waya), PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis, and Paul Spicer, PhD, of the University of Oklahoma.

Barnes' grant is funded in the amount of $416,063 by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Read the entire post at:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Moving On and Not Looking Back

I have always benefited from having very wise and honorable people in my life.  One piece of advice that has come from many folks is, when you have an opportunity to start fresh, don’t look back. This is the advice we give everyone who exists our sweat lodge. While I won’t go into all the aspects of participating in an Inipi (e.g., sweat lodge), when the ceremony is over and you crawl out, you are not supposed to look back into the lodge. Once it is over, you are reborn and become a brand new person. You can move forward without worrying about the old you. The Inipi, in part, is about cleansing off and removing the “old” person, allowing you now to work on the “new you.” So, focusing on what is in front of you is always best.

My family and I have the opportunity to start something new. I have accepted a faculty position with another University.  Within the next few weeks we will be moving. We will be moving on and not looking back – metaphorically. We have many friends in Buffalo and we plan to remain close to them. Again, not looking back represents our new beginning in our new home. Anything in Buffalo that does not represent moving forward, will remain in Buffalo. Just like when we left Kentucky, although we still have connections there, we started fresh in Buffalo. Buffalo deserved our new selves without any Kentucky baggage. My new university now deserves the same. We will go there fresh, brand spankin new!

I am very proud of everything that has been accomplished during my time in Buffalo. There is a strong group of folks in Buffalo who are working to improve the lives of Native Americans and their communities. I am grateful we were able to join forces. Anyone who has ever tried to change the status quo surely knows that the status quo does not like anything but the status quo!  I hope the work in Buffalo continues.

This blog will also start new. While it will remain focused on Native American issues, I will continue to use this site in a good way. It will remain committed to respectful viewpoints, along with challenging the status quo.

New adventures await. There are great opportunities and people there and I plan to bring my best. My eyes are straight forward, focused and wide open. All is well!

Peace, DAP

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Native American Commitment to Wellness & Respect

Although the old Native American Center for Wellness Research's Blog has come to its end -- a NEW blog comes alive -- Native American Commitment to Wellness & Respect.

While this blog will remained focused on Native American issues, health, healing, wellness, learning, and overall respect for all living things, it will have a new title and a rebirth. The reasoning behind the fresh start will arrive soon. Peace, DAP

Monday, April 16, 2012

Native American Center for Wellness Research Blog comes to an end

This blog began with the goal of posting things relating to Native American health and wellness for 1 year. After two years and about 47 posts this site has reached its end. I wish everyone health and wellness and continued success. Peace, DAP

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Native American Center for Wellness Research, Message from the Director

It has been a very good year for the Native American Center for Wellness Research and I am happy to report that our efforts continue on as strong as ever. The center is involved with funded research, awarding scholarships, and starting a Native American Living & Learning Community, named after a UB building, honoring Chief Red Jacket.

Funded Research

For instance, as part of a fellowship grant from University of Washington’s Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI), Native American Community Services and I are working on a Native American specific intervention for safer sex practices. Although there are many interventions and programs around the country to help folks become more aware of and have safer sex, there are no such interventions specifically for Native Americans. We are working with UB’s Department of Media Study’s SUNY Distinguished Professor Sarah Elder in order to create a film-based intervention.

Also, as part of our effort to recruit and retain Native American students, a grant was funded to test a brief intervention. Native American students have been the leaders in SUNY college dropout since the 1980’s, the year SUNY began collecting data. UB’s record of retaining Native Americans over those years mirrors SUNY’s overall data. For the past 30+ years, Native Americans attending SUNY universities have dropped out of these institutions at a rate higher than any other student category. A brief intervention that has shown to significantly increase college retention for minority populations will be replicated at UB. The overall purpose of the study is to test a proven intervention with a new student population -- Native Americans. The study’s innovation is that while the intervention has proven successful with other minorities such as African American students, it has not been tested with Native Americans. This study has relevance and significance if the outcomes demonstrate a turnaround in the three decade phenomenon of Native Americans dropping out of UB and throughout the SUNY system.

Wolf-Fire Scholarship

Five UB Native American Students will be awarded Wolf-Fire Scholarships in order to help both their scholarly works and their own communities. This is the second cohort of UB students to receive Wolf-Fire Scholarships, each receiving $500. The awardees will be recognized January 24th at UB’s Red Jacket Building.

The awardees are:

Jessica Brant is from the Mohawk Nation and a senior at UB’s American Studies program. Jessica is also the current President of UB’s Native American’s People Alliance (NAPA). Jessica is committed to ensuring UB Native American students have a community of their own on campus and other supports systems. She plans to use Wolf-Fire funds to purchase some advertising materials for NAPA in order to better recruit students. She will also use some funds to support her on-going educational needs.

Monty Hill is a student in the Linguistic department and a member of the Beaver clan of the Tuscarora tribe, one of the six tribes of the Haudenosaunee. With Wolf-Fire funds, Monty intends to digitize Tuscarora language data present in Rudes dictionary, and, in order to better serve his community, begin development of an online multimedia language resource. He intends to have digitized the entirety of the English to Tuscarora part of the lexicon and have it available online. Eventually, the seed of this project will expand into something beyond the lexicon i.e. uniting texts, audio.

Aaron VanEvery is a proud member of the Cayuga Nation and Wolf clan of the Six Nations reserve at Grand River in Ontario, Canada and PhD student in the American Studies Department. Aaron has dedicated his scholarly efforts to helping Native students become more aware of their cultural heritages. He intends to be a positive role model for students and hopes to mentor students while pursuing their educational degrees. Aaron hopes to develop an educational structure that focuses on Native American cultural and language courses. Aaron will use Wolf-Fire funds to support his course work.

Joe Candillo is a tribally enrolled member of the Pascua Yaqui Indian Tribe of Arizona and currently a PhD candidate in the American Studies Program. Joe will use Wolf-Fire funds to visit the Catawba Indian community in Rock Hill South Carolina to conduct ethnographic research on their traditional bow and arrow making tradition in hopes that the information that I gather will help to preserve this tradition for future generations of Catawba Indians.

Beynan Ransom is a citizen of the Mohawks of Akwesasne and an engineering student. Beynan became interested in acquiring the technical knowledge needed to solve complex environmental problems. Since learning about the contamination of the St. Lawrence River near Akwesasne, he has dedicated his life to finding ways to help restore the environment. For his master’s thesis he is working with the Onondaga Nation near Syracuse, NY, to help them decide whether the Onondaga Creek dam should be removed. His study will use the latest hydrologic science and computer modeling to show the tradeoffs the Nation has to make should the dam be removed. Beynan will use Wolf-Fire funds to travel to Syracuse NY in order to collect data.

Chief Sagoyewatha Living & Learning Community

The event on January 24th honoring the Wolf-Fire Scholarship awardees will be part of an overall effort to recruit UB students into its new Chief Sagoyewatha Living & Learning Community. The new program gets its name from UB’s Red Jacket dormitory which honors the great Seneca leader, Chief Red Jacket. Chief Red Jacket was better known by his Native American name, Sagoyewatha (Sa-go-ye-wa-tha), meaning He Keeps Them Awake.

The new Chief  Sagoyewatha Living & Learning Community will officially begin Fall 2012 and is open to any UB student living on campus interested in Native American issues. The January 24th event is an opportunity to learn more about the new Chief Sagoyewatha Living & Learning Community and recognize the awardees of the Wolf-Fire Scholarship. To learn more about these activities or the Native American center for Wellness Research, please contact Dr. David A. Patterson at or 716-207-6411.