Page 1


Issue on Native American Community and Identity


Inside Table of Contents 2

Upcoming Events


The Editor's Desk





Professor Profile: Dr. Joshua B. Nelson


Artist Contribution: Artist J. Nicole Hatfield


Student Group: Gamma Delta Pi

Student Contribution: Native Identity, Tribal Sovereignty, and STEM


Professor Profile: Dr. Kimberly G. Wieser

Artist Contribution: Blood series


Student Contribution: Wild Onions


About the Contributors

Cover Story: Opening our Eyes to Native Identity at OU

Our Team Editor-in-chief

Lucy Mahaffey

Marketing Director

Rachel Whitfield


Alexandra Goodman Ashley Jeffalone Miranda Koutahi Kelsey Morris Nick Penner Danielle Wierenga


Jacob Cullum Caleb Olsen

Advisory Board

Dr. Mary Anna Evans Dr. Brian Johnson Dr. Linda Kelly Mr. Mel Odom Dr. Joy Pendley Dr. Meg Sibbett

Social Media Director

Amanda Awad

Mission Statement: To serve as OU’s central sounding board, bringing together different voices and disciplines to inform, inspire, and encourage interaction on campus.

Disclaimer: FORUM is an independent student organization, and the views and opinions expressed in it are the personal views of the contributors and FORUM Team and do not represent views of the University of Oklahoma. Quotes and contributions have been edited for grammar, typos, and length.

Upcoming Events 4th Annual Native Crossroads Film Festival and Symposium: "Elements"

OU 4 N7

When: April 7-9

When: Friday, April 15

Where: Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Where: OU Campus

The festival will feature films, documentaries, animations, and a panel on the theme of elements and their role in Indigenous life, showcasing the most innovative works in Indigenous cinema.

Social Justice Panel on Indigenous Issues When: Sunday, April 17, 10:00am Where: West Wind Unitarian Universalist Congregation A panel discussing Indigenous issues including but not limited to: overall policy with impacts on indigenous peoples, environmental and reproductive justice, and Indigenous representation in the media.

Speakers and volunteers from the OU American Indian Student Association will work with Native American students ages 10-12 throughout the state in this event aimed to promote physical activity involvement in the community.

Heartbeat of the Native Soul Honor Singing for Calvin Saumty When: Wednesday, April 27, 6:30-9:00pm Where: Jacobson House All drummers and singers welcome. Potluck following the singing.


The Editor's Desk After our first issue, we asked our readers to respond to a survey about their experience with FORUM. The feedback was both useful and enjoyable. Below are some of the responses from our readers, edited for length. Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey. If you haven't responded to our survey yet, we would love to hear from you. Please visit our website for more information.

“I like the idea of a paper that I can suggest content for and possibly write for in the future.” –Chemical Biosciences major “I like that you delve deeply into a topic with each issue and give different perspectives on that one subject. Often complicated topics just get a surface treatment, so I think this is a good way to get people to see the depth and impact of a particular idea.” –OU parent “In general, just report and talk about real things that matter. The other publication on campus will make a story out of the smallest of things. I prefer this much more, and it's serious, REAL issues.” –Political Science major “I'm a queer individual and I feel that there aren’t enough articles telling our story in The Daily.” –Astrophysics major “Continue to cover issues that help better the campus. That's what I'd like to be involved with.” –OU faculty member “I would like to hear about issues that center around the students. Also, I think it would be valuable to provide events that would be interesting for students to attend, such as the Human Trafficking Symposium.” –Christians on Campus member “Consider the student perspective on these issues. That's what truly makes a student publication more widely read!” –Biology major “Keep going!” –OU faculty member


Opening our Eyes to Native Identity at OU by Alexandra Goodman I don’t know that I’m the best person to speak about the Department of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the Native American community and identity in general. I know very little about the experience and history of Native Americans, and I write this knowing that I could never speak or write anything that would encapsulate or summarize that fairly. Yet I believe that learning about other people’s cultures and history is of vital importance if we are to live together. At OU, courses and curriculum dedicated to Native American studies were first offered throughout the 1920s and 1930s. From 1994 to 2015, the Native American Studies program at OU grew and changed, offering a course of academic study to those “committed to using distinctly Native American perspectives to place the sovereignty of Native nations and the cultures of Native peoples at the center of academic study,” as their website states. In 2015, the program became an official degreegranting department, and OU is one of the top colleges in the US for Native American studies. In this issue of FORUM, we hope to introduce our readers to just a few of the many dedicated people in the department who are involved with Native American life on campus. The community of Native American students and faculty is vibrant and diverse, and we’re excited to share just some of the resources and opportunities to learn and get involved. While partaking in a dialogue about Native American identity and community is always

important, this issue is especially timely with the upcoming Native Crossroads Film Festival and Symposium. The festival will run from April 7-9 at various locations around campus (see our events page and the festival’s website for more details). Their theme this year is “Elements” as a reference to the “fundamental pieces that come together to form key aspects of Indigenous life,” according to their website. As you read this issue, I hope you take the time to engage with each piece and consider its importance. Apollonia Piña, for example, writes powerfully of the importance of Native students in STEM subjects, and Nicole Hartfield, Talon Claybrook, and Joleen Scott have submitted engaging works of visual and written art on Native identity. While working on this issue, I , as well as the entire FORUM team, have learned a lot, and I wish that for you too.

Get involved! Jacobson House Native Art Center This house honors Oscar Jacobson, his wife Jeanne d’Ucel, the “Kiowa Six,” and all Native American art students. Here you can find art exhibits, cultural activities, workshops, lectures, and other public events. Jacobson House sees art as a medium to express humanity, embodying values and spirit. Located at 609 Chautauqua Avenue in Norman, OK. 4

Native Identity, Tribal Sovereignty, and STEM by Apollonia Piña

The 27th of May, 1949 was a momentous day for Louis “Speedy” Wiley, my grandfather. This was a day which would eventually lead him on an entirely different life path than he had originally intended. In the span of 24 hours, he would both witness the birth of his first son, Roger, and the death of his father, Mose Wiley. Life and loss, overlaid and intertwined. At the time, Speedy was a student at East Central University in Ada, and was taking a college algebra class. In order to settle family affairs surrounding his father’s passing, my grandfather was obliged to take some time away from school, but he came back to take his final in college algebra. He looked at the paper in front of him, aware that he had missed many days from class, and still managed to create his own mathematical formulas to solve the problems. When he got the Comanche Chief by Nicole Hatfield, acrylic on canvas


results of his algebra final, he saw that he had achieved the correct answers using his own formulas, yet the professor flunked him anyway. When pressed, the professor stated that even though my grandfather had the correct answers, he didn’t use the “proper” formulas the students were instructed to use, and this was why he failed him. Discouraged by this encounter, my grandfather quit college and never went back. The story of my grandfather is not unique when it comes to the narrative of Native students struggling in college, especially in the math and science fields. The ability of Native students to persist in STEM programs was a topic that was brought up as far back as 1977 at a meeting of Native American scientists and educators in Albuquerque. At this meeting, they expressed their view that Native American skill and ability in mathematics was key to Indian self-determination. I am inclined to agree with them, and go so far as to say that math and science are crucial elements in tribal sovereignty. Utilizing math and science on behalf of the tribe will only enhance and increase our ability to govern ourselves the way we see fit, and will impede nonNatives from coming into our spaces and acting as “guardians,” often to the detriment of our cultural and economic sovereignty and self-representation. On the topic of culture, many young Native students, when pressed to consider the origins of science, generally do not think of their own tribe or other Native nations as founders in these disciplines. This is the direct result of the false narrative that we Natives neither knew much about technology nor did we have our own systems of mathematics. This narrative is at its core a product of scientific imperialism and Western hegemony. True, it would be naïve to make a line-item comparison of the two, as they are fundamentally different in epistemology and goals, but this is not to say the Native or indigenous ways of thinking and conceiving science and math are in any way inferior. We have a different system of perception (arguably a more finely tuned one than what Western science has to offer), but it is often misunderstood. This misconception was clear in my grandfather’s encounter with mathematics and his math professor, and it left a negative imprint that lasted for the rest of his life. Additionally, it is also important to reinforce the sense that Native students pursuing math- and science-related disciplines do not diminish their tribal identity or culture in any possible way. This is one of the aims of my own chosen career path. Further, all students (but especially Natives) must be taught that Native Americans have and always had our own indigenous systems of science and mathematics, and that we can still utilize them to augment the well-being of our tribes back home. Fvccvn okis.

Get involved! American Indian Science and Engineering Society This organization is for indigenous engineers and scientists. They focus on increasing the number of indigenous students involved with STEM. They also hope to increase communication between Native students and the general public. More info: 6

Blood Talon Claybrook Photo series and video The Dawes Act gave the US government control over tribal lands. To receive an allotment, Native people were forced to participate in a blood quantity process. Government officials determined how much Indian blood each tribal member possessed. In Blood, I forced participants to go through a similar process of racial identification. Participants were interrogated and I inaccurately documented their backgrounds. Systematic racial identification is the first step of possessing and cataloging minority identity for the monitoring and eventual extermination of non-white cultures. This intervention allows the audience to have a first-hand experience of having their identity stripped from them.



Professor Profile: Dr. Joshua B. Nelson His work in Native American film and the Crossroads Film Festival by Ashley Jeffalone Dr. Joshua B. Nelson is a native Oklahoman who acquired his undergraduate degree in Psychology at Yale University, then returned home to OU to study American Indian Literature. An accomplished academic, he additionally obtained his MA and PhD in English from Cornell. Dr. Nelson is now a professor of English and is an affiliated faculty member with Native American Studies and Film & Media Studies. He has recently published a book on Cherokee literature, identity, and culture called Progressive Traditions and is currently at work on a book called Skin Flicks: Indigenous Cinema and the Politic Body. In addition, Dr. Nelson is working on a documentary film about American Indian Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, the Thunderbirds.

Tell us about yourself. "I’m a Cherokee Oklahoman—grew up in Tuttle, went to Yale for my BA in Psychology, came back home to study American Indian Literature here at OU and during this time married my wonderful wife Tiffany (also from Tuttle—who I didn’t know growing up there. It’s an awfully big town), and left again to get my PhD in English from Cornell. I wrote my dissertation out in Cherokee country, south of Tahlequah where my wife and dogs (Omar the adopted golden doodle and Alfredo the rescued standard poodle) spend our summers. When I’m not professing, I play punk rock and classic country guitar, float around and fish on Lake Tenkiller, and watch Jim Jarmusch movies. Ideally, all at once." What got you interested in the Crossroads Film Festival? "Going way back, I remember how big a deal it was for me when I first found Sherman Alexie’s characters who spoke to a realistic American Indian experience in literature, and then saw them portrayed on the big screen in Chris Eyre’s Smoke Signals. Moments like that helped make me a professor, and now I can do work I absolutely love. For several years I’ve been teaching American Indian film, and in reading and writing about it, it became clear how hard it is to see some of the out-of-the-way work Native people have


made, because the viewing and distribution options of mainstream material just don’t make it their way. So several of us—especially Associate Dean Vicki Sturtevant, who was director of FMS at the time, and Kristin Dowell in Anthropology, unfortunately no longer with us—decided we’d see if we could drum up enough support to put on a festival and get these films in front of Native people who might also find them meaningful. Since then, we’ve gotten support from all over campus: the College of Arts and Sciences, the Provost’s office, private donors like the Chickasaw Nation and others have been incredibly generous. So have many more faculty, like Laurel Smith (from the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, who has been instrumental in expanding our programming to include Indigenous films from Mexico) and Sunrise Tippeconnie, and staff members like Karl Schmidt and Jen Dubois in FMS, who have basically taken on an extra unpaid job to handle all the organizational work that goes on with the event."


How can students get involved with you and your efforts? "We can use volunteers in a number of ways during the big event in the spring (April 7-9 this year, at the Sam Noble Museum), and in the smaller ones we have started doing in the fall. Where we could really use help from students is in making new films. That’s the major goal of the festival, to increase the number and quality of Indigenous films, so we’re now linking up classes like Sunrise Tippeconnie’s with the event and coordinating with FMS and NAS to train a new generation of Native storytellers. Students who want to get involved in film—as directors, actors, scholars, editors, programmers, and more—can reach out to us and we’ll find a way to get them going." What is the biggest thing you want the OU community, especially students, to know about Native Identity, Crossroads Film Festival, and your work? "I’d most like for students to have a sense of how valuable their intellectual and artistic contributions can be. Coming to creatively-inflected intellectual work relatively late in life and finding out how rewarding it is, I wish someone had told me about it years ago. So I’d like to tell students now how fantastic it is for them and the world that they get out what they’ve got in them."


The Gourd Dancer Nicole Hatfield Acrylic on canvas


Contemporary American painter J. Nicole Hatfield (Nahmi-A-Piah Comanche/ Kiowa [Numunu/ Khoiye-Goo]) is a Native Oklahoman who draws her inspiration from old historical photographs of her proud tribal women. By painting them she feels she not only acknowledges them as well as honors them by giving them a voice in our contemporary world. She frequently incorporates tribal language into her paintings to teach as well as keep Native languages alive. A self-taught artist who refers to painting as ‘her voice’ uses her preferred medium of acrylic to translate her bold colors to canvas. She attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, which transcended her art into a range of different mediums. Born and raised in the Southern Plains of Oklahoma, J. Nicole, respectfully of the Penetuka (honey eater) Band of Comanche's, has a profound understanding of the unique paradox in which Native American people and artists find themselves. She is challenged with art’s demand to “make it new” while still honoring and appreciating the unchanging spirit in all things as well as traditional tribal values. By consolidating the past as well as transcending it, she is able to obtain the gasps of artistic air needed to escape drowning in the assimilating flood of Native fine art.


Gamma Delta Pi: An American Indian Sisterhood by Kelsey Morris Founded at OU in 2001, Gamma Delta Pi is a sorority for indigenous women. Its goals, according to GDP’s secretary and historian Lillie Keener, are “to carry on the ideals, culture, tradition, and legacy of American Indian women.” With its 120 members hailing from about 20 different tribes, the sisterhood is much smaller than the Panhellenic houses on campus. The sorority hosts an annual “Zumbathon” in the fall and a basketball tournament in the spring as well as a number of other cultural and service events. Since Native students at OU have a lower graduation rate than white students, Keener says the organization’s small size is advantageous in that it allows its members to “bond with all of our sisters individually” and “provide a supportive family for each sister.” By enabling its members to learn more about the history and culture of various tribes and providing a space for Native women to build lasting friendships, the Alpha chapter of Gamma Delta Pi provides an invaluable service to indigenous women at OU.

Photo of 2015 GDP Conference, courtesy of Gamma Delta Pi.


GDP graduates, class of 2014, photo courtesy of Gamma Delta Pi.

Red Dress Movement, photo courtesy of Gamma Delta Pi.


Professor Profile: Dr. Kim Weiser Her work with Native writers and identity by Ashley Jeffalone

Dr. Kim Wieser is a professor at the University of Oklahoma who teaches English and is an affiliated faculty member with Native American Studies and Environmental Studies. She also serves as the National Director of Native Writers Circle of the Americas, as well as President of the Board of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. Dr. Wieser is currently working on a book called Back to the Blanket: Recovered Rhetorics and American Indian Studies with OU Press, expected to be out in the spring of 2017. She also is in revisions on her poetry manuscript "Texas . . . to Get Horses". Tell us about yourself. When we interviewed Dr. Wieser, she shared with us that she and her partner Rance have three children at home: Rachel, Marley, and Nia. She has one son in Texas, Cody, who is father to her first grandchild, Case. She also greatly enjoys participating in the community at Norman First American United Methodist Church, which holds frequent community activities. Dr. Wieser and her family also participate in traditional American Indian ceremonies around the state and nation. As part of her work with Wordcraft, she is involved in efforts to build literacy models for outreach throughout the Indian Country in the US and Canada. The silver anniversary event for the organization is planned for July 6-9, 2017 at OU. She is also passionate about helping homeless people across the nation. She said, “They are dear to my heart. Sometimes all it takes is asking their name and being human with them for a moment to help them in some small way.�


What got you interested in the Crossroads Film Festival? “As soon as my amazing colleague Joshua Nelson began this festival a few years back, I was hooked! Bringing great American films here where we have thirty-nine sovereign nations —Norman having the third highest per capita American Indian urban population in the country—is great for us all!” How can students get involved with you and your efforts? “Join Wordcraft! We'd love to have more American Indian and indigenous writers and are open to writers of all backgrounds. We've been doing playwright workshops at Jacobson House and have other writing workshops and activities in all genres. There are even film writing and comic book writing panels planned for RTG 25! In Wordcraft, you can get and GIVE help. We're a family. We even teach young mentees to interact with elders and help them back by assisting us with things like technology as we help you with writing and getting published.” What is the biggest thing you want the OU community, especially students, to know about Native Identity, Crossroads Film Festival, and your work? “Native identity is about seeing the world as a network of respectful, reciprocal relationships that have to be renewed by coming together and actually spending real time together, old time visiting, what people call 'being present' today. This film festival, for those of us who approach the world this way, is a family reunion of sorts, with some of that family yet unknown. We get together, laugh and cry as we watch these fabulous films and celebrate these filmmakers' giving back to the world with their work. As for my work, I do it because I love my students. They are the best students in the world.”


Wild Onions by Joleen Scott

Mom and I are up early to hunt. Dew covered grass stick to our shoes. Tall, thin blades stand out among the rest of the green grass. One by one, wild onions find their way into the clear, plastic bowl. Our fingernails gather clots of dirt while the smell of onion fills our nostrils. My breath held, while she breathes deeply. Step by step, we prepare the plant: cleaned, chopped, cooked with boiled eggs. The food is ready; no onions touch my plate yet the knowledge of wild onion and Cherokee tradition remains with me.

Cheyenne Girl by Nicole Hatfield, acrylic on canvas


About the Contributors Talon Claybrook (Creek-Seminole) is an intervention artist from Tulsa, Oklahoma. He uses photography, video, and mixed media to insert an indigenous narrative into the American consciousness. His work deals with themes of identity, appropriation, and decolonization.

Alexandra Goodman is a junior at the University of Oklahoma, majoring in professional writing and minoring in art history and German.

Ashley Jeffalone is a junior at OU. She is majoring in psychology and minoring in criminology and writing.

Kelsey Morris is a first-year sociology student minoring in medical humanities and social justice. She is involved with OU Debate and various social justice organizations on campus.


About the Contributors

Apollonia Piùa is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Nursing. She is a member of the Mvskoke Nation. After graduating, she plans to become a Nurse Practitioner and midwife before obtaining a doctorate in Nursing. She plans to utilize her university training to bridge cultural gaps between indigenous traditional medicine and Western models of medicine, and foster synthesis between the two in order to better provide culturally appropriate patient care. Her research interests include Native American perspectives in science and math, midwifery, indigenous womanism, and promoting Natives in STEM. She is a McNair Scholar and an undergraduate researcher on the NIH Native American Student Achievement Study at OU. When time allows, she enjoys scouting rare books and antique medical equipment, origin stories, and connecting the dots.

Joleen Scott is an aspiring Native American writer enrolled in the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. She is an OU senior and English-Writing major from Stilwell, OK.


Native American Identity | April 5, 2016 | Volume 1, Issue 2  

This is OU FORUM newsmagazine's second issue on Native Identity and Community at OU.

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