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IUPUI's Native American Heritage Month balances authentic heritage experiences and contemporary challenges

Charmayne Champion-Shaw
Charmayne Champion-Shaw Indian quill
Indian quill

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November 8, 2012

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A stone carving demonstration, a spirit pouch workshop and a session on misrepresentation and mascots are among events that make up an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis observance of Native American Heritage Month in November.

"The Native American Heritage Month events represent a balance between accurately displaying authentic heritage experiences and talking about contemporary challenges facing Native Americans,” said Charmayne Champion-Shaw, interim director of the IUPUI Office of American Indian Programs. The office is part of the IU School of liberal Arts at IUPUI.

Among the Native American Heritage Month events IUPUI is observing are:

• 20th anniversary of the American Indian Center of Indiana, 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Ruth Lilly Health Education Center.
• Diversity Film Series presents “Smoke Signals” at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in University Library in the Lilly Auditorium.
• Stone Carving Demonstration with Eiteljorg artist in residence Duane Goodwin, 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.
• Misrepresentations and Mascots: Indiana’s Misrepresentation of Indians, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 15 in Room 323A, Cavanaugh Hall at IUPUI.
•Spirit Pouch Workshop with Eiteljorg artist in residence Duane Goodwin, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.
• Red and Black: A critical discussion on the intersection of race and identity, 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 27, IUPUI Campus Center.

“As with other heritage months, the first question is do we really need them,” said Champion-Shaw, interim director of the IUPUI Office of American Indian Programs. “The idyllic answer is I wish we didn’t, but especially in Indiana, a state named after Indians, awareness about Native Americans is abysmal.”

People who learn that she is an Indian often will say, “I didn’t know Indians still existed,” Champion-Shaw said.

For Hoosier school children, the history of Native Americans is usually compressed into a social studies chapter they may be assigned to read in fourth or fifth grade, she said.
 A review of  the elementary school social studies books used in Indiana schools found that all of them described Indians in the past tense, she said.

A goal of Native American Heritage Month is to provide as much information about Indians as broadly as possible in a short span of 30 days. She also hopes people will turn to educational programs about Indians, including a new Native American Indian certificate that will be offered at IUPUI starting next fall.

“I’d like to see people recognize that we are here and that we are contemporary,” Champion-Shaw said.

For more information about Native American Heritage Month events at IUPUI, contact the IUPUI Office of Student Involvement at osi@iupui.edu.