6th-annual Diversity Summit to address American Indian issues

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The first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker today for K-State’s 6th-annual Diversity Summit, which will take place in the K-State Student Union Ballroom from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mankiller’s address, titled “It’s Hard to See the Future with Tears in Your Eyes: The Way Forward for Indigenous People,” will begin at 10 a.m.

The theme of the summit is “Today’s American Indian: Grounded in Tradition, while Reaching for the Future.”

Two other panels also will be included throughout the day. Myra Gordon, associate provost for diversity and dual career development, said the panels will discuss American Indian first-hand experiences, challenges and aspirations. There also will be discussion on issues that concern American Indians the most.

“I feel this is a way to work on diversity and cultural issues on campus,” Gordon said. “I believe it is important and critical for us to learn more about Native Americans.”

Mankiller will also speak to various classes in the College of Architecture, Planning and Design’s Pierce Commons in Seaton Hall. There will be a university-wide reception for Mankiller at 3 p.m.

Leslie Hannah, assistant dean of academics and assistant professor of arts, sciences and business at K-State Salina, helped bring Mankiller to speak at the event. Hannah is a Cherokee and member of the Sequoyah Commission, a think tank that advises the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Hannah said is glad the event is happening and believes it is beneficial for the K-State community to learn about other cultures, especially Native Americans.

“To me, I was a little shocked how little students seemed to know about indigenous people,” he said. “The native population is the most overlooked, but the culture is very much alive.”

Gordon said the summit would help the university better understand multicultural populations and be able to serve them better. Hannah said he also thinks it is important for the K-State community and American Indian tribes, including those in Kansas, to know more about each other.

“We know little about them and they know little about us,” Hannah said. “If I can’t get [students] to study native cultures, I’ll bring the culture to them.”

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