As director of a university museum, Nancy Strickland Fields understands the importance of networking.
Earlier this month, she was making contacts at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. In the days prior, she was in Greensboro for a private unveiling of a mural by renowned artist Matt Adnate.
Since taking over as curator of the Museum of the Southeast American Indian at UNC Pembroke, Fields has been fostering relationships with the local community and across the country.
Over the summer, Fields was pleased to host Kelly Haney, former chief of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. During Lumbee Homecoming, he spent several days touring the campus, the museum and the local area.
A well-known professional artist, Haney has exhibited his work throughout the world and has earned the title of Master Artist of the Five Civilized Tribes. He is best known as the creator of “The Guardian,” the 22-foot-tall bronze warrior sculpture atop the Oklahoma State Capitol dome.
Haney has political clout, too, as a former senator in Oklahoma and the first full-blood American Indian to serve in either house of the Oklahoma Legislature
“An important goal for me is to connect our museum to Southeastern people and communities because we are celebrating Southeastern culture,” Fields said. “And it is Chief Haney’s leadership that enables us to have a real strong way of making that connection.
“Being able to network with someone as well-known as he is helps put us on the map,” she said. “This was a great opportunity to share our culture with him and strengthen our ties with people in other communities in the Southeast.”
During his visit, Haney toured the art department, as well as the Art Department Gallery. He spoke to a group of international students and high school students attending an American Indian youth camp.
Haney also attended an alumni event hosted at the Chancellor’s residence.
“It was an honor for us to host Chief Haney during Lumbee Homecoming,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings.
“He is a remarkable individual, given his extensive service to his tribe and his state, in addition to his talents as an artist.
“By exposing leaders like Chief Haney to our university, we are growing relationships with tribes across the nation and marketing the unique educational experience available at UNC Pembroke.”
During the campus tour, university leaders touted its Southeast American Indian Studies Program which was launched in 2012 and offers a tremendous range of opportunities for Southeast American Indian peoples, communities, researchers, and scholars.
They also shared the university’s vision to expand the program to an eventual School of Southeast American Indian Studies.
Chief Haney said he was honored to ride in the Lumbee Homecoming parade with Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. He also attended the State of the Tribe Address, the annual AISES powwow and attended the tribe’s Veteran Resource Office open house.
“Having had the pleasure of hosting Chief Haney during our annual Lumbee Homecoming festivities, I came to understand him to be an honorable man and friend to the Lumbee people,” Godwin said.
“His support is invaluable in our pursuit of Federal Recognition."
UNCP professor and fellow Oklahoman Dr. Conner Sandefur, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, accompanied Fields and Bryant during the visit.
“Chief Haney has been successful in many different areas from tribal leadership, statewide politics and national politics,” Fields said.
“He grew up in the traditional Seminole way, maintaining culture and the integrity of his people. He is a guiding force for his people in Oklahoma and we need to build relationships with those types of people.”
Haney, who was accompanied by his grandson, Matt, said his first-ever trip to Pembroke was “one of the better trips I’ve ever taken.
“Everyone was so accommodating,” he said. “I was just impressed with what I saw from the university, the town and the Lumbee tribal members and tribal council. I was impressed with the number of (UNCP) faculty members that are Lumbee and with the quality of education being offered there.”