I don’t know that I’m the best person to speak about the Department of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the Native American community and identity in general. I know very little about the experience and history of Native Americans, and I write this knowing that I could never speak or write anything that would encapsulate or summarize that fairly. Yet I believe that learning about other people’s cultures and history is of vital importance if we are to live together.
At OU, courses and curriculum dedicated to Native American studies were first offered throughout the 1920s and 1930s. From 1994 to 2015, the
Native American Studies program at OU grew and changed, offering a course of academic study to those “committed to using distinctly Native American perspectives to place the sovereignty of Native nations and the cultures of Native peoples at the center of academic study,” as their website states. In 2015, the program became an official degree-granting department, and OU is one of the top colleges in the US for Native American studies.
In this issue of FORUM, we hope to introduce our readers to just a few of the many dedicated people in the department who are involved with Native American life on campus. The community of Native American students and faculty is vibrant and diverse, and we’re excited to share just some of the resources and opportunities to learn and get involved.
While partaking in a dialogue about Native American identity and community is always important, this issue is especially timely with the upcoming Native American Crossroads Film Festival and Symposium. The festival will run from April 7-9 at various locations around campus (see our events page and the festival’s website for more details). Their theme this year is “Elements” as a reference to the “fundamental pieces that come together to form key aspects of Indigenous life,” according to their website.
As you read this issue, I hope you take the time to engage with each piece and consider its importance. Apollonia Piña, for example, writes powerfully of the importance of Native students in STEM subjects. Nicole Hartfield, Talon Claybrook, and Joleen Scott have submitted engaging works of visual and written art on Native identity. While working on this issue, I, as well as the entire FORUM team, have learned a lot, and I wish that for you too.
Get involved! Jacobson House Native Art Center
This house honors Oscar Jacobson, his wife Jeanne d’Ucel, the “Kiowa Six,” and all Native American art students. Here you can find art exhibits, cultural activities, workshops, lectures and other public events. Jacobson House sees art as a medium to express humanity and embody values and spirit. It is located at 609 Chautauqua Ave. in Norman, OK. More info here.