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'Vehicle of Resistance'

ASU student on a two-wheeled mission through 15 Indian reservations.
Selfless acts, surprise friendships on the road part of the joys of the journey.
April 25, 2016

ASU master's student rides his bicycle around 15 Indian reservations to spread the word about indigenous history

Kenny Dyer-Redner is somewhere in the wilds of Nevada’s Indian country, and he’s spinning his wheels.

No, he’s not taking a break from his studies at Arizona State University. Dyer-Redner is on a two-wheeled mission.

The American Indian StudiesThe American Indian Studies Program is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. student is speaking about indigenous history as part of his master’s thesis and touring 15 Indian reservations in 34 days on a bike. He’s hoping to inspire youth and other community members to make their own history.

“As American Indian people, we are taught to think about history from a Western point of view. Too often American Indians accept this,” said Dyer-Redner, who is about three-quarters finished with his 34-day bike ride, which will encompass approximately 1,000 miles in and around northern Nevada.

“Most people think that stories and storytelling are powerful. I argue that stories have the power to shape our thoughts, consciousness and even our actions. I urge people to begin a process of engaging in physical activity and intellectual reflection.”

Dyer-Redner’s thesis, “Vehicle of Resistance: A Bicycle Ride for the Land, Culture and Community,” uses a theoretical framework that explores four concepts: history/land, storytelling, the physical body and political action.

ASU master's student Kenny Dyer Redner with a class of Native students

Kenny Dyer-Redner
visits students
on the reservations
he's biking through.

Photo courtesy
of Dyer-Redner

He’s putting to the test a theory he called “Active Indigenous Presence,” which argues that a presence of indigenous thought, voice and physical body disrupts and introduces the concept of decolonization and self-determination.

“At one time this country was all indigenous land, and right now we’re all separated on different reservations,” Dyer-Redner said. “We might be scattered, but there’s indigenous people everywhere and they’re very supportive. They are showing me that we are all one big community.”

Those kinds of life lessons are inspiring and the epitome of use-inspired research, said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, director of the Center for Indian Education and ASU’s Special Advisor to the President on American Indian Affairs.

“Kenny’s thesis project is remarkable in that he is, quite literally, embodying his scholarship. I suspect he will learn a great deal about himself as he braves the elements and tells his story,” Brayboy said. “Young boys and girls in communities will see that Native peoples can be thoughtful and serious scholars, generous people and engaged community members.”

The 34-year-old master’s student is fully engaged at the moment; he rides his bike 50-70 miles a day and sleeps in a tent at night. He said it helps him to connect with the land and the people.

“I purposely chose a bike because it’s not as quick as a vehicle and it forces me to get to know the landscape more intimately,” said Dyer-Redner. “There’s no way I’d be able to do that driving by in a car really fast.”

Riding a bike at 4,000-feet elevation can have its drawbacks, said Dyer-Redner. He has endured rain, severe wind, snow, and on a couple of occasions, hail. But that’s nothing compared with the sacrifices he made before taking off for Nevada earlier this month. He quit his job as a stocker at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in west Phoenix and had to get the blessing of his wife and two kids, ages 15 and 2, to fulfill his thesis.

But Dyer-Redner is quickly acquiring a new support system while on the road, thanks to a social-media post by longtime pal Derek Hinkey, who announced Dyer-Redner’s academic sojourn. News of his arrival has caught on with the locals, as well as an Elko, Nevada, TV station, who recently filed a story.

“When I come to a reservation, people either have heard of me or know I’m coming,” said Dyer-Redner. “I’ve even had people pull me over on the side of the road and say, ‘Hey, you’re that guy!’ People feed me, have hosted me in their homes and are showing they care.”

In return, Dyer-Redner speaks to youth groups, high school and college students, community members and elders about his life on the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Indian Reservation. He speaks honestly about some of the obstacles he faced in his youth — racism, loneliness and some self-destructive behavior when he turned 12. He said athleticsDyer-Redner played football and basketball and was recruited by several colleges. He was a champion boxer on the club level at the University of Nevada, Reno. gave him the discipline to turn his life around and that education is helping to shape his future.

“Everybody can relate to my story because growing up I was very shy and passive, your typical res kid,” Dyer-Redner said. “I was a good athlete, and that gave me the confidence I needed to overcome my shyness. But some of these kids are dealing with challenges I didn’t face.”

Some of those challenges include poverty, substance abuse, isolation, unemployment and lack of basic resources, including law enforcement.

“There are some reservations that don’t even have their own police departments or rely on Bureau of Indian Affairs — but they don’t really enforce the law that much,” Dyer-Redner said. “Many drugs are being sold out of houses in plain sight but nothing’s being done. When that happens, things get skewed.”

Dyer-Redner said it’s not all gloom and doom. He’s also witnessing the other side of humanity — selfless acts, good deeds and surprise friendships on the road. They include: Bird from Lovelock, Nevada, who teaches underserved youth traditional Paiute songs; Pete, an 82-year-old man who is walking across the United States and who stopped to share his story; and Deb, who heard about Dyer-Redner through Facebook and posed for a selfie at a Native American landmark at Pyramid Lake, 40 miles northeast of Reno.

Dyer-Redner is keeping a daily journal and recording his trip using a GoPro camera. His thesis will include these mediums as well as the many lessons he is learning along the way.

“I feel like I’ve definitely changed,” said Dyer-Redner, who wants to host a weeklong creative writing workshop for youth in the area in the future. “I feel more humble and possess a stronger sense of community. I feel like I’ve achieved great things as an individual, but it’s no longer about that.

“I’m part of a community, and now I have a responsibility to them.”

 
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Top 5 ASU resources to keep you at the top of your finals game

April 25, 2016

How does Arizona State University prepare for finals week? With food and puppies, of course.

Here’s a list of all the ways the most innovative university in the country helps prepare its students for the most challenging week of the year. 

 

 Downtown DRC office

Disability Resource Centers

A Disability Resource Center (DRC) office is located on four of ASU’s campuses (Tempe, West, Downtown Phoenix and Polytechnic) and is equipped with testing banks, computers and quiet rooms. Those enrolled in the program have the option to take their final exams with time and a half and assisting technology. How quiet are the quiet rooms? Some are equipped with noise-canceling headphones and white-noise machines, all to ensure there are absolutely no distractions for the students taking their exams. Such accommodations aid DRC students who are in need of academic support. 

“Arizona State’s DRC offers a diverse range of services for those students who register for our services,” said Diane Garvey, associate director at the DRC. “Each student that registers with the DRC is a unique individual, and so the accommodations we provide are also unique to that person.”

 

Finals Breakfast at ASU

Finals Breakfast 

The Finals Breakfast takes place on April 27 — but it’s really more of a finals dinner. Food is served at all locations between 8 and 11 p.m., free to those with an ASU ID. The Finals Breakfast also includes relaxation activates, free tutoring and giveaways. 

To accommodate as many students as possible, the event locations are Taylor Place (Downtown Phoenix); Citrus Dining Pavilion (Polytechnic); Barrett Dining Hall, Hassayampa Dining Facility, Manzanita Dining Hall and Union Plaza in the Memorial Union (Tempe); and the Verde Dining Pavilion (West).  

 

 ASU's student tutoring program

Student tutoring

In terms of tutoring, there are many student-tutors available for free to ASU students in a variety of subjects. According to Tempe student-tutor Kamal Vajram, students are given a wide array of resources when it comes to academic support.

“Since it’s finals week they [students] have a lot of problems they may need clarification on,” said Vajram. “We hold practice sessions for students and go over the problems they would see on their finals.”

Vajram says tutoring services are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.

“We tutor students both in groups and one-on-one, with all costs being covered by ASU,” he said.

For locations and more information, visit tutoring.asu.edu/tutoring.

 

 ASU counseling services

Counseling

Counseling services are available for those who need help coping with the stress of finals week. ASU offers confidential, personal counseling for students experiencing emotional concerns, problems in adjusting, and other factors that affect their ability to achieve their academic goals.

Counseling services are available on the Tempe, West, Downtown Phoenix and Polytechnic campus between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Students are encouraged to reach out by walking into any of the four counseling services locations during business hours for a consultation, or call any one of the four numbers provided on the website.

 

girl with dog

Comfort dogs

And if talking to people is not your preferred method of handling stress, try talking to dogs! The Barrett Honors College Rest and Relax event brings several breeds for students to spend time petting and playing with. In past years, golden retrievers, Labradors, terriers and other large and small dogs have come to campus for this event. You can meet the dogs from noon to 3 p.m. Monday, May 2, on Palm Court of the Honors College Tempe complex.

Trevor Fay

reporter , Media Relations and Strategic Communicatons