Nearly 300 American Indian university students will be in Lawrence next week for a Big 12 leadership conference.
Much of the conference will focus on issues facing American Indian student organizations on college campuses with mostly white student populations, said Olivia Standing Bear, co-president of Kansas University's First Nations Student Assn., which is hosting the three-day event.
"We have a bunch of issues to talk about," Standing Bear said.
The main issues at KU, she said, involve "cultural awareness. A lot of people around here aren't aware that we, Indian people, even exist. They don't know what a powwow is or they've never been to one."
Strategies for keeping American Indian students enrolled and graduating, too, will be discussed.
"Universities tend to put a lot of effort into minority students, but once the student's on campus that effort sort of tapers off, even though that's when you really need to work the hardest on retaining students," said Cornel Pewewardy, an associate professor of education at KU.
Conference activities will be in the Kansas Union on Thursday and in the Burge Union Friday and April 16.
Keynote speaker Jim Gray, founder of the Native American Times newspaper and chief of the Osage Nation, will address the group at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Big XII Room in the Kansas Union.
Gray is co-chairman of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs' Tribal Budget Advisory Council.
First Nations Student Assn. also will host a workshop on traditional hand games -- games of skill or chance that require few if any objects -- at 9 p.m. April 14 at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread Ave.
The conference will end with First Nations Student Assn.'s annual powwow April 16 at Robinson Gymnasium. Grand entry begins at 7 p.m.
The powwow and hand-game workshop will be free and open to the public.