Mashantucket Pequots and Yale University Host Conference on Native American Education and Cultures

The second annual Conference on Native American Education and Cultures will be held April 9-11 at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center and on the campus of Yale University. The conference is the key event of a Native American weekend celebration at Yale.

Organized by Jace Weaver, associate professor of American studies and religious studies at Yale, the conference is the second of a series on Native American studies, each devoted to a different theme. The conference next year will focus on Federal Law and Policy.

This year’s conference on education comprises panel discussions, a play performance, and readings of works by Native American authors as well as a reception and buffet supper at Yale’s Beinecke Library. Peterson Zah, former president of the Navajo nation, will be the keynote speaker at the Saturday session.

The conference will begin at noon, Friday, April 9, as buses transporting participants to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum depart from Beinecke Library on the Yale campus. (A second bus to Mashantucket will depart from Yale at 3 p.m.) The first activity of the weekend will be an opportunity for participants to tour the new Mashantucket Center.

At 3:30 p.m. there will be a presentation of a one-act play by Drew Hayden Taylor, Toronto at Dreamer’s Rock, followed by Jace Weaver’s opening remarks and a keynote address by Richard West, director of the National Museum of the American Indian.

Buses returning to New Haven will leave at 6 and 8 p.m.

Saturday’s and Sunday’s events will take place at Yale.

From three perspectives – tribal/national; college/university; and museum and research center – panelists will look at some of the complex issues unique to educating Native Americans and educating non-Native Americans about indigenous cultures. Among the scholars participating as panelists are 10 representatives of the approximately 550 federally recognized tribal nations.

“In taking up the issue of education, we are examining two areas of vital importance,” says Weaver. “The first is how we serve Native populations. The second is how we will be perceived by the wider public.”

Native Americans are uneasy with mainstream education. They fear that it may train young Native Americans to navigate mainstream society but teach them little that can be translated to their communities. At the same time, there is concern that teaching Native students about Native cultures in mainstream institutions will break down traditional modes of cultural transmission, thus weakening tribal/national communities.

In addition to the conference and a dinner/reception on Saturday night, the Native American Weekend at Yale will include Native American Day at the Peabody Museum of Natural History on Saturday. Activities throughout the day include a performance by the renowned Thunderbird American Indian Dancers; an opportunity to meet with Dale Carson, author of New Native American Cooking; and a talk on growing up on a reservation by writer Delphine Red Shirt, a member of the Oglala Sioux.

The final event of the weekend celebration will be a pow wow on Sunday, drawing Native Americans from across the nation and Canada. The pow wow is sponsored by the Association of Native Americans at Yale, whose 20 members represent the Native American community currently enrolled in Yale. The pow wow will feature a dance contest, drumming performance, and authentic crafts, all in diverse Native American idioms.

The conference, including the reception and buffet supper, is open to the public without reservation. Nonetheless, those who are intending to attend should contact George Miles at the Beinecke Library (203)432-2958 or e-mail [email protected].

Media Contact

Dorie Baker: [email protected], 203-432-1345