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Old 06-28-2008, 12:40 PM   #1
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Lightbulb Lakota facility seeks to teach understanding between cultures

Lakota facility seeks to teach understanding between cultures
by Ryan Woodard, Journal staff
Rapid City Journal - 28 June 2008
Lakota facility seeks to teach understanding between cultures RapidCityJournal.com

MARTIN, SD -- Intermittent flashes of light burst from a horizon of gray clouds, lighting up the dark sky and wide-open, tumbling grasslands of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on Wednesday evening.

It was not a scene Brian Twenter figured he could have witnessed from a classroom seat at a university.

"It's so cool out here," he said.

Twenter, a University of South Dakota doctoral student, was about halfway through a weeklong workshop at the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies -- commonly called CAIRNS -- when a lightning storm hit just outside the research center.

CAIRNS is a nonprofit research and education center on Oglala Sioux Tribe trust land near Martin. The center is part of a larger facility called Wingsprings that is being built by Oglala Lakota College professor Craig Howe.

Howe, a native of the area, coordinates the workshops and lives on the land. The workshops are meant to teach people about the Lakota culture by immersing them in it.

Howe lives in a building on a piece of high ground, and he has built a cluster of tipis in the valley below. Participants gather in the main building for workshop sessions, and many sleep in the tipis in the evening.

During the week of workshops, Howe takes the groups on educational trips throughout the reservation and brings speakers to the Wingsprings facility.

As he sat under an awning outside the research center and watched the storm unfold, Twenter talked about how valuable the field-trip experience is to him.

"I think he has the right idea of studying it in the place where the culture comes from and in the place where the art comes from, as opposed to studying in a classroom," he said. "It's better to get out here, live it, see it, and then the discussions become more poignant."

Howe hopes to add to the learning experience by providing a realistic Lakota atmosphere.

He moved back to the area in 2000 and begun construction on the facility on his family's land, about a mile and half from where he grew up.

Howe received his bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Nebraska and earned a doctorate at the University of Michigan.

After school, Howe spent time as the deputy assistant for cultural resources at the Smithsonian Institution. He said he always wanted to return to the West River area and is happy to be living in the area where he grew up, educating others about Lakota culture.

"Part of it is the experience of being on reservation land, so people can see what it's like to be on this land, live on this land," he said.

The group spent Wednesday taking in art displays around the reservation and discussing Lakota art styles and artists' techniques. One of Howe's main goals is to provide materials that participants can use to teach their own students about the Lakota culture.

Many of the participants are educators, but Howe welcomes anyone seeking to learn more about the Lakota culture.

This week's workshop was one of four that Howe will conduct this summer. The workshops, funded in part by the South Dakota Humanities Council, are among many projects Howe coordinates at the facility.

Virginia Kennedy of Milford, Penn., visited the CAIRNS facility this week on a grant from Cornell's American Indian Studies department. She said Howe excels at bridging the cultural gap between people seeking to learn about Lakota culture and those who know it.

"Part of what makes it exceptionally exciting ... is that it's about a conversation between cultures," she said Wednesday evening. "His main question to theses artists today was, 'What would you say to these teachers who are not Lakota people?'"

Naomi Colberg, who worked this past year as a counselor for the White River School District, said this week's course has helped her learn more about different cultures, which will continue to serve her well as a counselor.

"Learning more about Lakota culture enables me to develop a stronger rapport with Lakota clients and their families," Colberg said.

Creating understanding between cultures is one of Howe's main goals.

"In our state, it's important that we all know more about each other," he said.

*******

The Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS), is an Indian-controlled non-profit research and education center. CAIRNS is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of American Indian communities and issues important to them by developing quality educational resources and innovative projects that acknowledge and incorporate tribal perspectives, and by serving as a meeting ground for peoples and ideas that support those perspectives. CAIRNS was incorporated in South Dakota in 2004 and its founding members and board of directors are enrolled members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and residents of South Dakota.

During the summer of 2008, CAIRNS will offer four unique workshops that explore different approaches to understanding and teaching Lakota culture. Participants will focus on the governmental, artistic, and ceremonial aspects of Lakota culture with an emphasis on Oglalas and the Pine Ridge Reservation. Participants will develop curriculum guides and lesson plans based on readings, films, presentations by experts and scholars, and visits to content-related sites on Pine Ridge Reservation. These workshops are supported in part by a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council.

CAIRNS is developing new and innovative materials related to American Indians that are primarily intended for classroom use. These materials supply teachers and students with high quality educational products that address a wide range of American Indian cultures and histories. Other materials will provide American Indian perspectives on contemporary issues and topics such as the Lewis and Clark bicentennial, land tenure, sacred sites and tribal identity. As a meeting ground for peoples and ideas, CAIRNS is planning programs for educators and interested individuals at its Wingsprings facilities. CAIRNS is also developing an archives to bolster the resources available to program participants and the public at large. Its first collection was a gift of manuscripts from Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, an author, critic and professor in American Indian Studies who is regarded as one of the writers of the twentieth-century American Indian literary renaissance.

CAIRNS is located at Wingsprings, a retreat and conference center on Oglala Sioux allotted trust land in Bennett County, South Dakota. The site is located 8 miles east and 3 miles north of Martin and provides easy access to Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. The unique headquarters building functions as a multi-use research, study, meeting and dining space; a curved bathhouse provides private bathroom and shower facilities; and tipis and rustic cabins serve as lodging accommodations. The surrounding landscape of rolling grass-covered hills, crosscut by an intricate system of draws that empty into a natural network of spring-fed pools, serves as an open-air classroom for the study of native plants and provides numerous opportunities for recreation.

The Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS), is an Indian-controlled non-profit research and education center. CAIRNS is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of American Indian communities and issues important to them by developing quality educational resources and innovative projects that acknowledge and incorporate tribal perspectives, and by serving as a meeting ground for peoples and ideas that support those perspectives. CAIRNS was incorporated in South Dakota in 2004 and its founding members and board of directors are enrolled members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and residents of South Dakota.

For more information about the workshops and the CAIRNS program:

Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies
28649 226th Avenue
P.O. Box 448
Martin, South Dakota 57551
Ph: (605) 685-6484
Email: [email protected]
Website: CAIRNS - Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies
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