By Elio Leturia–THE CHICAGO CHAPTER of the Fulbright Association kicked off this year’s International Education Week on Sunday, November 15, 2015 with an insightful and colorful presentation by Dr. Dorene Wiese, Chief Executive Officer of the American Indian Association of Illinois.
The presentation entitled “NATIVE AMERICAN PERCEPTIONS AND REALITIES IN THE U.S.”, offered a look at American Indian history and focused on several modern-day issues concerning the American Indian communities such as land rights and tribal laws.
The presentation also included a dance performance by the youngest members of the Black Hawk Performance Company. The event took place at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in River North. The school partnered with our chapter in providing the space – a large lecture hall with a panoramic view of the Chicago River and downtown high-rises.
Over sixty attendees in what some have called one of the most interesting and educational programs our Chicago Chapter has put together in the past years, participated in the event. “It was really interesting, enlightening, and fun! I really appreciate that the Chicago chapter is so active; I know other Fulbrighters who are less lucky,” said Kevin Spitta, a Fulbright student from Germany who is pursuing a masters in Advertising and PR at DePaul University.
Mary Mares-Awe, President of the Chicago Chapter, who had just arrived from the 2015 Fulbright National Conference in Atlanta, welcomed all the attendees.
“International education is what Fulbright is all about,” Mares-Awe said.
A quick change of plans—pizza had just arrived—allowed all participants to grab some warm slices right before Dr. Wiese’s presentation.
Dr. Wiese, who belongs to the Ojibwe tribe from White Earth, Minnesota, presented a comprehensive panorama of the situation of American Indians in U.S. society in regard to politics, education and culture. She pointed out how the media portray American Indians in society which in turn perpetuates the stereotypes seen in the movies and on television.
Dr. Weise made a specific reference to the commonly used term, “Native American”, when refereeing to American Indian. She says that “anyone born in this country can be a native American.” She emphasized that the term American Indians is the accurate terminology in reference to her people. “We need to be recognized as the original people in this country and allowed to be included,” Wiese said.
The audience participated with many questions.
The serious tone of the engaging presentation was lightened when Wiese described the attires she and the little dancers Ethan, Eric, Evian Cloud were wearing. “Only American Indians can wear eagle feathers,” she said, because the Eagle is protected species. She explained the designs on the capes, shoes, and other garments that were adorned by delicate embroideries.
Music and dance followed. What started with Dr. Wiese and the children dancers, continued with the attendees in a circle dance. This was another experience that allowed all of us to learn and share a little more about our complex American society.
The Chicago Chapter would especially like to thank Dr. Breeda McGrath, who heads the Department of International Psychology at the Chicago School of Psychology for arranging the use of the space for our event, and to Dr. Patricia Pérez.
Photos by Kevin Spitta and Elio Leturia