Kansas University education students said their stereotypes of Native Americans as people of a homogeneous culture were shattered during a visit to the Haskell Indian Junior College campus this morning.
David Patterson, a KU junior from Hesston, was one of those who said the visit to Haskell expanded his notions of the American Indian culture.
"I thought (before) what most people thought that there were only about 100 tribes in the U.S. with a lot of the same customs," Patterson said.
"I was very impressed with the school and hearing about where the students came from," said Mona Tichnor, a Kansas City, Kan., junior. "It felt different because we were the ones out of place, and I think it's important that we start teaching our kids about the real America."
The 34 KU students who toured the Haskell campus today are members of a multicultural education class taught by Pat Weiss, an instructor in the department of curriculum and instruction.
"The last real image we have of Native Americans is Wounded Knee and reservations," Weiss said. "We have to break the preconceived ideas."
DAN WILDCAT, a Haskell sociolgy instructor who led the KU students on their tour, said that Haskell's mission has followed that of the federal government.
"In the early part of the century the attitude was to assimilate Native Americans into American society," he said. "That philosophy has changed somewhat, and I think in some ways Haskell is on the cutting edge of Indian education."
Wildcat said Haskell was trying to go beyond "cultural tokenism."
"Many people have a homogenized view of American Indians," he said. "There's very little recognition of how diverse American Indians are."
Wildcat said images often associated with Indians, such as salmon, bison, corn, teepees and wigwams were misleading.
"I don't know of any Indian who lived with all of those things."
WILDCAT introduced four Haskell students who each spent about 20 minutes telling the KU students where they were from and how they got to Haskell.
Anthony Dick, a Menominee from Wisconsin, told the KU students that as future teachers they must learn to become involved with the community and to recognize cultural differences in individual students.
"If we learn one thing today, let's learn that everyone is not the same," he said. "Not everyone lives in a house with a two-car garage, has gotten eight hours of sleep the night before and has had breakfast before class, like it says in the books," he said.
He told the students about living in Wisconsin, lobbying for two years in Washington, D.C., on behalf of his 7,000-member tribe, and the ongoing struggle for federal assistance.
WILDCAT SAID Haskell has about 800 students representing 100 tribes from across the U.S.
When asked by KU students, Haskell students said tribal diversity causes some conflict at the junior college but that it was not serious.
"Members of one tribe will make fun of people in another tribe, but a lot of it is just joking around," said Lori Ortiz of Albuquerque, N.M. "There are no other races here so there is naturally going to be some group conflict."