On Sept. 17, 1884, the United States Indian Industrial Training School opened its doors to educate and assimilate Indians. Fifteen students in grades one through five were brought to the sprawling campus, south of the city of Lawrence. Since that day, the school has undergone monumental transformations, first as Haskell Institute, then Haskell Indian Junior College, and now as Haskell Indian Nations University. For nearly 120 years Haskell has served American Indians and Alaska natives from across the country, albeit in a different way than in 1884.
The city of Lawrence was just 30 years old when Haskell was established. Since then, Lawrence has become a special place for thousands of students who have called Haskell and Lawrence home as they completed their educational programs. Students and employees of Haskell add a dimension of diversity to the community that is unique. Few, if any, cities can boast of a diversity that includes indigenous Americans from approximately 140 nations or tribes in any given year. Think about this, representatives from one-fourth of the nation's 562 federally recognized tribes come to Haskell. Because Haskell is here, this unique diversity is here.
Like many of Haskell's employees and students, I like living in Lawrence. The city is just right in many ways. I spent six months at Haskell in 1994 and became a fan of Lawrence, Kansas. When presented the opportunity to come here permanently in 1996, I gladly accepted.
Haskell is growing and maturing as a baccalaureate degrees granting institution. A strategic plan for Haskell 2008 will guide continued growth and maturity for Haskell. Known and loved by countless American Indian and Alaska natives from across the country, this 120-year-old institution is intergenerational just like KU and Baker are; parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents went to Haskell.
In 2004, students come to Haskell and Lawrence for very different reasons than the original students in 1884. Instead of assimilation, the value of their diversity is recognized and nurtured.
Haskell is lucky to be in Lawrence and Lawrence is lucky to have Haskell.
Karen Swisher is president of Haskell Indian Nations University.