The head of Kansas University's Indigenous Studies Program urged Haskell students to recognize and preserve the Native American point of view.
Despite the usual August afternoon heat and an inherently stuffy auditorium, roughly 300 Haskell Indian Nations University students turned out Tuesday for the school's convocation.
"It's really nice to see so many of you here," said Karen Swisher, Haskell's interim president.
Classes at Haskell started last week with an opening-day enrollment of 930 students -- 32 more than last year.
Donald Fixico, director of the Indigenous Studies Program at Kansas University, urged the students to determine their goals and use Haskell to achieve them. He also told them not to fear post-graduate studies.
"Less than 400 Native Americans have doctoral degrees," Fixico said. "If there were twice that many -- no, if there were a thousand -- it would still not be enough."
Increasing the number of American Indians with post-graduate degrees will help preserve American Indian perspectives on many fronts, Fixico said.
As a student, Fixico said he quickly realized that as an American Indian his interpretation of assigned readings often differed from those of his white teachers.
"I'd read whatever the book was that had been assigned and then, when I got to class, I wouldn't even recognize it, so I'd go home and read it again," he said. "Finally, I realized that I wasn't really missing it -- I was reading with an Indian point of view."
Fixico asked the Haskell students to help him preserve the American Indian viewpoint, assuring them that "being Indian and academic can go hand in hand."
Fixico, who has written three books and more than 40 articles on American Indian history and culture, is part Sac and Fox, and Creek and Cherokee.
The convocation concluded with formal swearing-in ceremonies for student body president Prentice Crawford and vice president Diane Reyner, both juniors from Oklahoma.
Crawford is a past president of the Wetlands Preservation Organization, an organization dedicated to preserving the Haskell-Baker Wetlands.
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