This weekend, Haskell Indian Nations University is hosting the eighth annual conference of the Association of American Indian and Alaska Native Professors.
American Indian scholars from coast to coast, from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico, have converged this weekend on Haskell Indian Nations University as part of a yearly, think-tank retreat.
And as far as those in attendance were concerned, there couldn't be a better spot for it.
``Haskell is sort of the center for American Indian higher education,'' said Jerry Bread, a professor of Native American studies at the University of Oklahoma and the campus head of community outreach and recruitment.
Bread is among the more than 100 scholars in Lawrence this weekend for the eighth annual conference of the Association of American Indian and Alaska Native Professors. In addition to Kansas University, colleges represented at the conference include Harvard, Stanford, New Mexico, Ohio State and Washington.
The group focuses on research projects, current legislation and government policies that affect Native American culture and education. During the three-day conference, Haskell students are given the chance to confer with the visiting scholars and to find out about graduate school programs and other opportunities.
``We interact a lot with students here ... try to serve as role models,'' Bread said.
Dee Ann DeRoin, the president of the Haskell Foundation board of directors and the 1997 William I. Koch Outstanding Woman of the Year, marveled at the many accomplishments at Haskell since Bob Martin took over as the school's president in 1990.
``Haskell Indian Nations University really is a metaphor for the strength, adaptation and successful survival of Indian people in this country,'' said DeRoin, a physician at Kansas University's Watkins Health Center.
DeRoin said her ``secret life's fantasy'' was to return to school one day and to continue her pursuits as a Native American scholar, alluding to those in the audience Friday morning in Haskell's auditorium.
Haskell's history, Martin said, provided an apt atmosphere for the conference. The student body represents 150 Indian nations from 35 states, and cultural traditions and language, at one time discouraged on campus, now thrive at Haskell.
``For a lot of our history, we were an institution of assimilation,'' Martin said. ``The principles of sovereignty and self-determination are very important to us. We want to do what we can to preserve and maintain the Indian identity.''
Since Haskell awarded its first-ever baccalaureate degrees in May of last year, three new degree programs have been added: business, environmental science, and American Indian and Native American studies.
-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is email@example.com.