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Examining the American Indian Experience

Examining the American Indian Experience

In 1990, then-President George H.W. Bush designated November as “National American Indian Heritage and Alaska Native Month.” The theme this year is “Creating a Healthy Native World.” And although we report on minorities in higher education 26 times a year, we decided in this edition to give special focus to American Indians in higher education.

Comprising approximately 1.5 percent of the U.S. population, American Indians and Alaska Natives are arguably the most under-represented groups in the United States. You rarely read an article in the mainstream media about American Indians that’s not related to casinos or alcoholism or other issues confined to Indian reservations. And while these are all important issues, American Indians, like all of us, are just trying to provide for their families and improve the lives of future generations. In many cases, they are also trying to preserve their unique cultures, which brings me to one our feature stories, “A Matter of Survival.” Diverse correspondent Peter Eichstaedt visited the University of Wyoming, where instructor Wayne C’Hair is teaching the Arapaho language. Years ago, many American Indian students were discouraged from speaking their native language once they entered school. Now adults, those students are longing to reconnect and preserve a critical part of their culture.

“One of the things that we face right now is that when these languages aren’t learned, everything that is bound together through language is lost,” says Dr. Christine Sims, assistant professor at the University of New Mexico’s College of Education, who was interviewed for the piece.

We at Diverse are taking great efforts to boost our coverage of the issues important to American Indians at our nation’s colleges and universities. To aid us in this effort, Mary Annette Pember, a past president of the Native American Journalists Association, has joined our staff as a contributing editor.

A recent article on the declining number of Blacks in law school prompted a response from a reader at Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College, who reminded us about the abysmal numbers of American Indians in law school.

“Sometimes I think we are invisible!” said the writer in her e-mail. I suspect she’s not the only American Indian that feels that way.

With Mary Annette’s help, along with the higher ed reporting expertise of our entire staff, we will continue to report on American Indians to raise their issues and visibility. A photojournalist, Mary Annette teams up with writer Mark Anthony Rolo on a profile of University of Wisconsin professor Dr. Patty Loew. While Mark Anthony interviews Loew, Mary Annette debuts her work in this edition with the photos of Loew that appear on the cover and in the feature. Mary Annette has several interesting articles in the pipeline and you may e-mail her at [email protected] with any questions or comments related to our coverage of American Indians in higher education. And as always, you are welcome to send your comments to me at [email protected]

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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