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Conference features competitions in art, Web design

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2009/03/31/jodirave/rave57.txt Drawing on history: Conference features competitions in art, Web design - Tuesday, March 31,
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2009
      http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2009/03/31/jodirave/rave57.txt

      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
      colleges.

      “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
      happy.”

      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
      computer graphics.

      “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.
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