Language is more than just communication. It is intertwined with an individual’s culture and it is how humans pass on ideas, beliefs, and values. Historical injustices have deprived many Native tribes of their ability to use their own languages, and the generations that have followed have not learned them from their elders. Recently, however, there has been a resurgence in resurrecting these lost languages and rebuilding knowledge and use of traditional Native speech. To honor that effort and heighten awareness, the 26th Annual Washington University Pow Wow used Preserving our Tribal Language as its theme for 2016. This campus-wide event continues to be planned and presented entirely by the Buder students. These efforts include major fund-raising, as well as procuring Pow Wow participants, physical set up, and hospitality before, during, and after the event. The Washington University family and St. Louis community continue to generously support this event with both financial contributions and gifts of participation. Thank you!
The Buder Center strives to embrace diversity within its own center as well as to educate others on the Washington University campus and the larger community. As a result, this past year we welcomed 26 American Indian/Alaska Native students to the campus. These students represented 14 different tribes and nations from 15 states across the country. While some students were Buder Scholarship recipients, others received funding from a variety to sources including the Brown School, the Hearst Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, research grants, fellowships, and tribal scholarships.
The Buder Center encourages students to communicate their traditions, ideas, beliefs, and values by providing opportunities for them to share their knowledge through educational sessions at schools, community organizations, and businesses. This past year, Buder students, staff, Buder Alumni and American Indian community members participated in over 30 educational outreach sessions. Events at area elementary schools and high schools included presentations on storytelling, dance, and traditional foods. Students presented at such venues as the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the Missouri History Museum, Ameren Diversity Day, Wells Fargo, and WUSTL’s Day of Discovery and Dialogue events.
Students and staff of both the Buder Center and the Brown School continue to communicate vital concerns and issues of importance to Native peoples through research and publishing. Recent publications have focused on such challenges as tobacco use, financial capability, approaches to wellness, and disabilities and health issues of American Indian/Alaska Natives.
Over the last 26 years, the Buder Center has worked to communicate the importance of education to prospective Native students. In the fall, the Buder Center welcomed the Chickasaw Nation to the campus, where members performed a stomp dance and gave a stickball demonstration. In addition, the staff from Red Cloud Indian School in South Dakota visited and toured the campus and the area. In a reciprocal arrangement, Dr. David Patterson visited students and staff at Red Cloud in the spring, as well as Oglala Lakota College and Black Hills State University. The Buder Center also hosted sixteen students from Haskell Indian Nation University’s Social Work Club; these students toured the Brown School and attended the Pow Wow. Four additional prospective AI/AN students visited the campus in April, meeting with current Buder students and alumni.
The sharing of traditions and cultures with diverse groups helps build understanding and develops relationships. The Buder Center has done this in a number of ways: First, this past semester students were able to enroll in two AI/AN courses—“American Indian Social Welfare Policies and Administrative Practices” and “Leadership Development and Evaluation in Indian Country IV.” In addition, Buder students and staff attended and presented at various national and regional conferences and events. Particularly moving are the annual candlelight vigil to honor Indigenous People’s Day and Buder Blessing to send our graduates out into the world.
The ultimate goal of the Buder Center is to equip AI/AN students with the skills that they will need to take into the larger community so that they can share the language of health, wellness, safety, and financial capability using culturally-grounded practices. To that end, the Buder Center continues to create new field education opportunities for these students to gain experience. New relationships have been developed this year in as many as 13 places across the country, including locations in California, Arizona, North Carolina, Alaska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.
We are grateful for the vision of Kathryn M. Buder and her willingness to communicate the traditions and values of the First Peoples of this country through education. We are proud of the steps we have taken to honor the past as we move forward to share these values with future generations.