WMU News

Panel discussion slated for Native American Heritage Month

Oct. 28, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- The increasingly prominent role Native Americans are taking in interpreting their own past will be the subject of a panel discussion from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, in Room 2213 of Sangren Hall on Western Michigan University's main campus in Kalamazoo.

The free public program, "Teaching Native American History," also will address the challenges Native Americans face in contributing to the historical understanding of their past, such as discrimination and a lack of educational resources. It is being sponsored by WMU's College of Education and the Fort Miami Heritage Society in St. Joseph, Mich.

Jodie Palmer, director of the college's diversity initiatives, says the college and society have both produced public programs dealing with education and diversity, but this is the first time the two institutions have collaborated on such a project.

"The program will be an excellent opportunity for cross-cultural sharing of successful strategies for educators and historians," Palmer says.

Moderating the panel discussion will be Ken Pott, executive director of the Fort Miami Heritage Society. The society helps the public explore the legacy of Michigan's lake frontier by researching, preserving and sharing the cultural history of the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph region. It maintains a working relationship with WMU's academic program in public history as well as operates a regional a regional historical museum and research library.

Pott notes that the upcoming panel discussion will complement the themes of a two-year exhibition at the museum called "Shared Waters: Natives and French Newcomers on the Great Lakes," which is scheduled to end in January 2005.

"This forum promises to provide valuable insight into how Native American culture can be most effectively preserved and shared for the benefit of present and future generations," Pott says.

On the panel will be scholars, teachers, craftspersons and cultural conservators. They will include Dr. Margaret Pearce, WMU adjunct professor in the Department of Geography and a Potawatomi scholar with expertise in the role maps play in constructing identity, and Dr. Gray Whaley, WMU assistant professor of history with expertise in Native American history.

For more information, contact Dale Winling in WMU's Department at (269) 599-6117 or <L9winlin@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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