Conference features competitions in art, Web design
Drawing on history: Conference features competitions in art, Web design -
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
By JODI RAVE of the Missoulian
On Monday, Nicholas Begay swiftly moved charcoal across white drawing
paper, rubbing, drawing and blending the black pigment with skill that
captured judges' attention, allowing the art student to nab a first-place
finish in a national tribal college drawing competition.
I had fun, said Begay, a junior at the Institute of American Indian Arts
in Santa Fe, N.M. I walked around and watched everybody work. I usually
get my inspiration from other artists. I enjoyed the whole atmosphere of
everybody doing art.
Begay is among some 900 tribal college instructors, staff and students
attending the American Indian Higher Education Consortium conference at
Missoula's Hilton Garden Inn. The three-day event, which ends Tuesday night
with an award banquet, is bringing students together from tribal colleges
across the country to compete in science, speech, Web design, art, business
planning, drama, hand games and critical inquiry competitions.
We came with a busload of students, approximately 40, and they've been
participating in the knowledge bowl, said Lois Red Elk, a drama instructor
at Fort Peck Community College in Wolf Point. In preparing for these
competitions, we're making sure our students are learning culture and
reading contemporary books on history and Native life. The importance of it
all is so that our traditions are utilized in what we're teaching and
learning today in contemporary society.
Conference organizer Lola Wippert said the AIHEC event had exceeded
expectations, drawing tribal college staff and students from more than 30
Our biggest challenge was the weather, said Wippert. Our guest speaker
today was snowed in over in Livingston. And then we had some colleges in
North Dakota who couldn't make it because of flooding over there. Other
than that, things are going well here on-site. Everyone seems really
Danielle Lowe, an accounting major at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa
Community College Hayward, Wis., competed in the oral interpretation, quick
draw and art competitions.
I've learned a lot from all the different types of tribes, she said.
There's a lot of programs out there for Native students.
Lance Four Star of Fort Peck Community College agreed.
I moved back to my reservation after living in Seattle, Phoenix and
Washington, D.C., and I was in the military, said Four Star, who is a
Native American Studies major. The main thing I was missing was an
identity and connection to my tribe and my people. Since then, I've
immersed myself in the culture and I'm learning the language. I'm enjoying
the college and learning as much as I can.
Many of the tribal college students want to share their knowledge with
people outside their community.
Ali Smith, a computer information systems major at Blackfeet Community
College in Browning, entered the student Web site design competition. She
and her computer partner, James Durtka, designed a Web site to create
awareness about the Bear River Massacre, a seminal moment in Blackfeet
history that occurred Jan. 23, 1870.
For the last 17 years, the BCC staff and students have commemorated the
massacre of more than 217 peaceful Blackfeet men and women belonging to
Chief Heavy Runner's band.
It was early in the morning. The recorded temperature was 44 degrees below
zero, said Smith. The one the U.S. Cavalry was looking for was Mountain
Chief's band. They went to the wrong camp. They were notified twice that it
was a peaceful band.
The tragedy - also known as the Baker and Marias River Massacre - should
never have happened, Smith said.
It's not really being acknowledged by our state, she said. All we want
from the state is historic representation.
The student Bear River project, which will likely be launched in April,
aims to raise $25,000 to place a monument at the location. It's something
that's special to us, our college, our culture, said Smith.
Said Durtka: The Internet is the great communication system that we have
today. If you have anything to say, it's one of the places you best say it
if you're trying to reach a bigger audience.
Still, some of the students have turned to their computers for purely
artistic reasons. Annie Bighand from the Navajo Technical College won first
place for contemporary computer art with a piece titled Annie's Eye
Dazzler, a kaleidoscope-inspired Native imagery piece all done with
The students are extremely gifted, said Corky Clairmont, art program
director at Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Reservation. Some of
them don't consider themselves artists. They just wanted to have fun. If
you look at the work, you see this beautiful energy and expression that
reflects our Native communities.
John Well Off Man judged the student art show, as well as the hourlong
quick draw contest.
There are some dynamite pieces in there, he said. I'm really blown away
by what I've seen in there this morning. It just shows the wide variety.
Ten years ago, everything was just pretty much the stereotypical pieces.
What I've seen today, these artists are really on the cutting edge.
Reporter Jodi Rave can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or jodi.rave@....
Or read her blog at www.buffalopost.net.