Portland State commemorates Native American Heritage Month with special guest lecture
The philosophy of Cornel Pewewardy, associate professor and director of the Indigenous Nations Study Program at Portland State, goes a little something like this:
“My life’s purpose is to continue a warrior tradition framed from the teachings of warrior-leaders, peace-chiefs/philosophers, warrior-professors, culturally responsive colleagues, students, and all the young people of all colors who will inherit the earth with the four-legged winged ones and water beings.”
Pewewardy is involved in this year’s most prominent Native American Heritage Month event, a lecture by Melody McCoy, senior staff attorney of the national Native American Rights Fund.
The celebration, which takes place Wednesday, Nov. 30, in the Native American Student and Community Center, will finish off the month and give extensive insight into the history of American Indian education.
McCoy, a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Michigan Law School, is widely respected as one of the best legal minds in American Indian law and in the education sovereignty of tribes. She is currently an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
“I am excited about helping to bring in a Native scholar who can speak as to why we still need treaties today,” Pewewardy said. “Melody McCoy will be talking about the U.S. federal government’s trust responsibility to sovereign tribes and what that means in contemporary terms of assuring treaty education rights are honored.”
Pewewardy, who has been teaching in Portland since 2008, believes celebrations like Native American Heritage Month act as tools that are absolutely essential to our educational system.
“Honoring ethnic groups in segments of days or months is a common practice of multicultural education,” Pewewardy said. “Setting aside an entire month like Native American Heritage Month is commonly referred to as the single-group studies approach, where one studies a particular group of people for a designated period of time.”
This single-group studies approach, Pewewardy explained, focuses on one specific group at a time so that the history, perspectives and worldview of that group “can be developed coherently rather than piecemeal.”
“What this approach means to me is an ethnic cheerleading method to multicultural education, because its basic tenets mean that the selected ethnic group is the focus of recognition and study,” Pewewardy said.
Every November, Native American Heritage Month observes and celebrates the customs and accomplishments of Native Americans and Alaska Natives and provides opportunities for public involvement.
Over the past several years, Portland State has sponsored many events similar to McCoy’s lecture and will continue to do so in the future. Professor Pewewardy eagerly participates in such events.
“My part in these types of ethnic celebrations is to honor the historical stories of survival and resilience of each group, while at the same time engaging in critique of the wider public spheres and structures dealing with the global implications of imposed capitalism and oppression,” Pewewardy said.
Pewewardy is encouraged by the direction and advancement of Native American studies.
“For most of my life, my part in these celebrations has been one of resistance and usually rewriting the stories from the point of view of those who have been exploited politically, economically and spiritually, as well as whose self-determination agendas have been largely omitted from mainstream history textbooks,” Pewewardy said.
The event will foster the mission laid out by the Native American Student and Community Center, which includes providing a cultural home for Native Americans, Alaskan Natives and Pacific Islanders to connect with students, faculty, staff and community members.
McCoy’s lecture promises to do this and much more.
“It’s going to be an extraordinary event for the campus and extended community,” Pewewardy said.
Melody McCoy lecture
Native American Student and Community Center
710 SW Jackson St.
Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2:30 p.m.
Excellent article, I started working at PSU in early October and I have come to love this newspaper that rivals anything I have ever seen or read in the Oregonian, The Register Guard, and Salem Newspaper.
Outstanding work & writing of your student journalists. I served as a electronic journalist and editorial writer for almost twenty years in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Missouri before coming to Oregon and having bouts with cancer that slowed me down. I appreciate the youthful and well thought out perspectives in the writing and especially the opinions section.
Congratulations to your entire staff and the best of the Holidays to those who celebrate, and Happy Winter to those who don’t.
Keep up the great work,
Good article, however I wonder if this particular event would have been placed in the education section.this is an event that will shed light on tribal ~ government relations(federal,state and local) within the framework of education. Attendance will present new insights and awareness for some and generate creative solutions for others, non ~ native and native alike. Hence fostering collaboration and bridge building the distinct worldviews. Blessings, carol