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Southeast Indian Studies Conference going strong at 10

April 23, 2014

The 10th annual Southeast Indian Studies Conference at UNC Pembroke was host to a significant volume of original research from near and far.

Rocky Locklear talks about the Literacy Commons project at Oxendine Elementary School, where he was once a student.

Rocky Locklear talks about the Literacy Commons project at Oxendine Elementary School, where he was once a student.

Conference presentations on April 10-11 covered diverse topics – local, state and national – on history, culture, literature, health and higher education. UNCP students also presented on projects that reached out to the local community.

Dr. Alfred Bryant, director of UNCP’s new Southeast American Indian Studies program, presented on day two and was in the audience both days. Located in the home of the largest Indian Tribe east of the Mississippi, the SAIS program would greatly expand the scope of research to the southeastern U.S.

“I was pleased with the conference. Attendance was very good,” Dr. Bryant said. “I am particularly impressed with the diversity of the topics.

“I believe the conference serves a valuable purpose,” he continued. “Scholars are looking for a place to tell their stories, and we want UNCP to be that place. This is a part of the future of the Southeast American Indian Studies program.”

It was two solid days of presentations wrapped around the Lumbee River Independent Film Festival on Friday and Saturday evenings. The festival hosted the world premier of the documentary film “Voices of the Lumbee.” A student-faculty collaboration, “Voices” is an hour-long oral history of the Lumbees’ struggles in the post-World War II economy.

Scholars came from New Hampshire and Mississippi as well as Wilmington and Winston-Salem. Nick Timmerman, a graduate student at Mississippi State University, said he learned about the conference online. Dr. Patricia Lerch, a faculty member at UNC Wilmington, has been on the email listserv from the very first conference.

“This is an important scholarly activity,” Timmerman said. “Here, you get feedback on your research, and you network with other scholars.”

Other scholars work closer to home. Dr. James Bass, director of the Learning Center at Robeson Community College (RCC), discussed his research on American Indian student success from community college to the university.

“I looked at persistence of American Indian students as they moved to UNCP from RCC, which is a feeder institution for this university,” Dr. Bass said. “I surveyed RCC students who planned to go to UNCP, UNCP students who graduated from RCC, and graduates of both institutions.”

Dr. Bass, who is a UNCP graduate, looked for common characteristics of successful students in surveys and interviews. He found that supportive family and friends were the most critical success factors. He had some recommendations for UNCP too.

Dr. James Bass, former UNCP Alumni director, discusses his doctoral research on American Indian student retention as they transition from Robeson Community College, where he now works, to UNCP.

Dr. James Bass, former UNCP Alumni director, discusses his doctoral research on American Indian student retention as they transition from Robeson Community College, where he now works, to UNCP.


“Having courses and activities specifically for American Indian students boosts persistence,” Dr. Bass said. “UNCP is fortunate to have an American Indian Studies program. But it is also important to involve non-Indian students in the American Indian experience.”

Nora Dial-Stanley, a resident of Forsythe County, and Dr. Ulrike Weithous of Wake Forest University discussed their battle against non-Indian groups staging powwows and other cultural appropriations.

Dial-Stanley took her case to the municipal and state governments and the North Carolina Commission on Indian affairs with mixed success. She also took on a North Carolina tourist landmark, Tweetsie Railroad in Boone, N.C.

“When Tweetsie Railroad wanted to hold job interviews for the Indians (who attack their train during performances) at Appalachian State University, we were successful in stopping them,” Dial-Stanley said. “We were able to stop future proclamations from the governor’s office supporting these (unsanctioned) powwows and other events as well as Arts Council funding for them.”

Three UNCP student groups discussed their community outreach work through service-learning classes. A health literacy documentary film titled “Down with Sugar,” was presented by students in English professor Dr. David Marquard’s class who worked with UNCP’s Literacy Commons.

A student group from American Indian Studies professor Dr. Jane Haladay’s service-learning class wrote lesson plans and delivered programs on Native foods for students at Union Elementary School. Rocky Locklear, working with the Literacy Commons, presented on a writing project at Oxendine Elementary School. He said the project “demonstrated the power of the written word.”

“I was a student at Oxendine Elementary; this community is the place I call home,” Locklear said. “These kids see me in a spotlight and say ‘if he can do it, I can too.’”

The Southeast Indian Studies Conference was organized by UNCP’s Department of American Indian Studies, the Museum of the Native American Indian Studies and the Office of Academic Affairs. For additional information, please contact 910.521.6266 or email ais@uncp.edu.

Students in Dr. Linda Oxendine’s Lumbee History course sit in on day one. They are from left: Dana Reijerkerk, Chris Hunt, Timisha Ivey, Brent Locklear and Bryan Cummings.

Students in Dr. Linda Oxendine’s Lumbee History course sit in on day one. They are from left: Dana Reijerkerk, Chris Hunt, Timisha Ivey, Brent Locklear and Bryan Cummings.