WFU to host Native American Indian symposium

Wake Forest University will host the daylong event “Native American Indian Sovereignty: An Interdisciplinary and Cross-Cultural Symposium” on Nov. 6. The symposium is the post-convention event for the 2003 National Indian Education Association convention, scheduled for Nov. 1 to Nov. 5 in Greensboro.

The free, public event, offered as part of the university’s ongoing celebration of the 2003-2004 theme “Fostering Dialogue: Civil Discourse in an Academic Community,” starts at 8:30 a.m. in Wake Forest’s Benson University Center.

Members of several American Indian tribal nations from across the country, as well as a representative of native Hawaii and the indigenous peoples of Mexico, will gather for the symposium to explore topics such as “Sovereignty, Economics, and Politics in the United States,” “Native American Indian Sovereignty in North Carolina: Past, Present, Future,” “Cultural Identity, Autonomy, and Sovereignty,” and “Federal Recognition for State Recognized Tribes.”

“The focus of this conference is Native American Indian sovereignty, but the issue of sovereignty is defined in a very broad sense – it includes autonomy, independence, and spirituality. These terms are all linked to issues of economic well-being, education, cultural revival and revitalization,” said Ulrike Wiethaus, professor of humanities at Wake Forest and an organizer of the event. “This event and the conference in Greensboro are so important because you cannot understand the United States without understanding American Indian communities and American Indian contributions to the United States.”

David Wilkins, a Lumbee representative and professor of American Indian studies and adjunct professor of political science, law and American studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, will deliver the keynote speech “Indigenous Self-Determination: A Global Perspective.”

In addition to participants from the United States, Sister Josefa Hernandez Perez, a Mayan representative from San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, will participate in a roundtable discussion titled “Sovereignty, Autonomy, Independence: Multicultural Perspectives.”

Russell Eagle Bear, senior instructor in the Lakota Studies Department at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, will present “Changing Meanings: Threats to Lakota Sovereignty in South Dakota.” Harry Charger, a member of the Sans Arc band of the Lakota people, will discuss the topic “Education, Government and Religion: Obstacles or Opportunities for American Indian Sovereignty.”

The National Indian Education Association convention, an event that brings together American Indian leaders, congressional representatives and educators from throughout the United States and Canada, is being held east of the Mississippi River for the first time in its 34-year history.

Wiethaus said the event offers Wake Forest a unique opportunity to bring well-known and respected American Indian leaders to campus for open discussion about the challenges facing their culture. Papers presented at the symposium will be compiled for a book.

“North Carolina has the largest Native American Indian population east of the Mississippi, so it makes sense for Wake Forest University to host events like this,” Wiethaus said. “This symposium is a significant contribution to diversity on our campus.”

The symposium is sponsored by Wake Forest University and the Lilly Endowment, the 2003 National Indian Education Association Local Planning Committee and the university’s theme year planning committee. Several programs and departments on campus have offered their support as well.

A full schedule of events planned for the symposium is available on the Web at For more information about the event or to register, contact Ulrike Wiethaus at or 336-758-7169; or Rosa Winfree, chair of the NIEA planning committee, at or 704-933-0576.

The yearlong “Fostering Dialogue” celebration includes several events intended to raise provocative questions about how dialogue is practiced at Wake Forest and within the larger society. Other events scheduled during the year include a special seminar through the university’s communication department focused on dialogue and production of documentaries, a visit and lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, a Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner Day and two film series.

Additional information about the theme year’s events is posted on the “Fostering Dialogue” Web site at The 2003-2004 theme year is the eighth theme year recognized at Wake Forest.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Events, Speakers