The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday January 25th

American Indians Want Campus Voice

An expanded Native American studies program and a push to bring in more American Indian faculty members, staff and students mark significant strides in the effort to bridge a cultural gap on campus.

But UNC's American Indian students say the University faculty and staff lack adequate representation of their minority group.

Making up less than 1 percent of UNC's enrolled population, American Indian students are trying to bolster their numbers at UNC and increase the University community's knowledge of their heritage.

With November being Native American Heritage Month, junior Tawnda Thompson said she and fellow students will continue expressing their concerns.

Thompson, a member of the Carolina Indian Circle, said it is often difficult for UNC's 160 American Indian graduate and undergraduate students to make their identity known.

"(American Indians) are overlooked a lot," Thompson said. "I love UNC, but it's important to have every group represented here."

Thompson said the issue of representation gained momentum recently when Anthony Locklear, UNC's assistant dean of student counseling and an American Indian, stepped down.

Thompson said students in the Carolina Indian Circle are lobbying to get someone with an American Indian background to take Locklear's place.

Archie Ervin, assistant to the chancellor and director of the Office for Minority Affairs, said he understands American Indian students' desires to increase their representation on campus. "Native students feel that it would add to their viability as a community if there were more (American Indians) here," he said.

Despite frustrations, American Indian students have had something to cheer about lately with the growth of a Native American studies program at UNC.

Hoping to improve knowledge of American Indians and their heritage, curriculum in American studies Chairman Townsend Ludington is working with his colleagues to establish a program that allows students majoring in American studies to complete a concentration in Native American studies.

Ludington said too few Native American courses previously existed at UNC. "My concern was that there needed to be something developed," he said. "We had a substantial number of students whose needs weren't being met."

Three years ago, the University hired Michael Green and Theda Perdue to teach Native American courses in the American studies curriculum and the Department of History.

Also teaching Native American subjects next semester will be newly appointed faculty member Valerie Lambert, an American Indian who will teach an anthropology course about native North American cultures.

Next semester, five courses will be offered under the Native American studies program, including classes through the American studies curriculum and the history and anthropology departments.

Green, who is not of American Indian background but has many years of experience in Native American studies, said there is a large potential for UNC's Native American studies program to expand. "You don't have to be an Indian to be interested in Native American studies," Green said.

Danny Bell, a program assistant in the American studies curriculum and a Lumbee-Coharie Indian, said increasing the number of Native American courses and faculty members is vital to the University. "We need to realize that there are Native American faculty members across the country," he said. "I don't know how Native Americans weren't included in the efforts to diversify students."

Ervin said his department provides resources to currently enrolled and prospective American Indian students.

"Native American students want the University to be more aware of the perspective they have here."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.


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