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American Indian perspectives highlight Celebrate the Century Conference

American Indian experiences will be a common theme for four tribal speakers during the 24th annual Consider the Century: Native American Perspectives Conference Friday, Oct. 5, on the South Dakota State University campus. The four 50-minute presentations will start at 9 a.m. in Room 101B of the University Student Union.

Started at SDSU in 1989 as a reaction to the mono-cultural emphasis of South Dakota’s centennial celebration, the conference has a history of offering enlightenment about tribal histories, cultures and traditions.

Richard Meyers
Richard Meyers

The day’s first speaker, Richard Meyers, is an example of those varied experiences. Meyers, who recently came to SDSU as the tribal relations director and program coordinator for American Indian Studies, has a Lakota mother, an Irish-American father, master’s degrees in English from Middlebury College in Vermont and anthropology from Arizona State University and a doctorate in anthropology, also completed at ASU.

“I’ve grown up between cultures,” Meyers said of a youth that found him shuffling between his family in Wanblee and St. Francis, to his family in Chicago and Massachusetts. Various travels and experiences between the to two distinct cultures ushered in his interests in anthropology.

Another aspect of Meyers’ presentation will be experience as a ghostwriter for Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., often referenced as the BIA or Bureau of Indian Affairs. In that capacity, he wrote news releases, speeches, proclamations, research papers and edited numerous government reports.

“I effectively tried to communicate and transmit to numerous publics and stakeholders the issues confronting the nation’s 566 federally recognized tribes,” Meyers said.

While in Washington, Meyers noticed that many of the people who worked on policy issues regarding Indian Country had degrees in American Indian studies, but were not Indians. He hopes to open the door for more natives to work on policies affecting their respective communities by establishing an American Indian Studies major at SDSU by fall 2013.

“The climate here is set in motion for a lot of cultural diversity,” said Meyers. “As a fundamental component of that you have American Indian studies in a state rich in tribal histories.”

Charlotte Davidson
Charlotte Davidson

The 10 a.m. speaker is also new to the SDSU campus. Charlotte Davidson is acting director of the American Indian Educational and Cultural Center and an adjunct faculty member in the teaching, learning and leadership department.

With a doctorate in educational policy studies, Davidson will speak about the ways in which indigenous decolonization, traditional knowledge and natural law have formed her identity as a native female academic.

Speaking at 1 p.m. will be Peter Lengkeek, treasurer of the Crow Creak Sioux Tribe and a co-organizer of the Dakota 38+2 Memorial Ride. He will explain the origins of the ride from Crow Creek to Mankato, Minn., which memorializes the Dakota warriors who were executed in the aftermath of the Dakota Conflict of 1862. He will also describe some of the experiences of the participants.

At 2 p.m. Deanna Stands, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, a retired educator, an author and a member of the Oak Lake Writers’ Society, will discuss her experiences as an educator in South Dakota schools. She will compare and contrast tribal and majority society philosophies of education and offer some suggestions for reforms in South Dakota’s school systems.

“The Native American experience is an integral part of South Dakota’s history and culture,” said conference coordinator Charles Woodard. “Through events like Consider the Century, we have the opportunity to learn about tribal cultures and points of view from articulate tribal speakers.”

Consider the Century is co-sponsored by the South Dakota Humanities Council, SDSU and its American Indian Studies Program, Native American Club, English Department, Journalism and Mass Communication Department and Office of Diversity and the Brookings Area Reconciliation Council.

For more information, contact Woodard at 688-4056 or by email.