ASU student represents her heritage in summer internship


October 20, 2017

Arizona State University student Andrea Smolsey went swimming with the frogs — or rather smelling with the frogs — this summer during a six-week internship at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, Illinois, in which she helped develop an odor library for frogs to investigate the decline in amphibian populations.

Smolsey, an undergraduate in American Indian Studies and the School of Life Sciences, has been interested in molecular biosciences and biotechnology since high school. Andrea Smolsey, an undergraduate in America Indian Studies and the School of Life Sciences Andrea Smolsey, an undergraduate in American Indian Studies and the School of Life Sciences. Download Full Image

After conducting a meticulous bacterial transformation experiment her junior year of high school, she expanded her research by relating her findings to diabetes. As an Apache, Smolsey was happy to personalize the project’s scope to her community because Native Americans have a greater chance of developing diabetes than any other U.S. racial group, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I was able to focus on a minority ethnic group, which was interesting,” said Smolsey. “The implications were profound and purposeful to give back to my people. I don’t know what else I would enjoy as much as this.”

Her passion for research followed her into college. Smolsey has conducted research in a few labs as an undergraduate at ASU. The skills she has gained came in handy when Laura Gonzales-Macias, associate director of the American Indian Student Support Services, recommended her to apply for an internship.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Construction Engineering Research Laboratory has developed a student internship and mentoring program at their facility in Champaign, Illinois. The program gathers research to enhance the Army’s ability to design, build, operate and maintain its installations and contingency bases while ensuring environmental quality at the lowest life-cycle cost.

During her summer internship where she focused on developing the odor library for frogs, she worked toward figuring out what types of odors a frog can smell as a means of building a chemically-mediated conservation effort.

“They don’t know what kind of chemical binds to receptors and what outcome it produces,” Smolsey said. “Once they find out there is a reaction to a scent, they can test if certain smells attract or repel the frogs. And the idea behind that is, certain frog species are declining so they want to non-invasively facilitate movement of these species through chemically mediated conservation efforts.” 

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Left to right: Kenro Kusumi, associate dean of research and graduate initiatives; Kirankumar Topudurti, deputy director of the Construction Engineer Research Lab; Andrea Smolsey; and Paul LePore, associate dean for student and academic programs.

During her time in Illinois, and as one of the youngest students in the lab, Smolsey ran into a few challenges that helped her grow.

“Most of the other interns were undergraduate seniors who were about to graduate or had just graduated, so they kept saying how young I was and how ahead I was. There was a disconnect there, but I got used to talking with them.”

Smolsey was also one of the only Native students involved in the research. When questions about her heritage were brought up, Smolsey said she was not surprised.

She grew up on a military base with people from many different backgrounds. She had to hurdle many instances when people would ask about her heritage without being culturally sensitive. Regardless, Smolsey would answer the questions as a proud Native American.

“We just expect it sometimes,” said Smolsey. “I’m all for educating people about my heritage so I don’t mind, but it was interesting that it still happened. It’s a weird thing. You feel uncomfortable being asked these questions, but at the same time you’re prepared.”

Despite having to overcome these hurdles, Smolsey persisted.

“We need native people in these environments. I don’t see a lot of representation of natives in lab coats and goggles, specifically in that research area,” she said. “It takes a lot of strength to do, as a native person. I was given the opportunity to do research and have pictures representing myself, my family and this community very respectfully.” 

She is thankful for her experience to not only participate in relevant and meaningful research, but to educate others and represent her community.

“I say only positive things came out of doing it,” she said. “I gave a presentation at the end, where I introduced myself in Apache, which I thought was amazing. You never hear about a research presentation starting in Apache, but it was done and I was the one who did it.”

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

 
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How will the Navajo walk away from coal?

October 19, 2017

ASU receives grant from Department of Commerce to study the question, work on economically and culturally smart solutions

Last week the federal government awarded nearly $420,000 to the Navajo and Hopi tribes to prepare for the closure of a coal-fired power plant and mine.

The Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona, and the Kayenta Mine that supplies it with coal will shut down in 2019 unless a new owner for the power plant is found.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced financial support Wednesday for Navajo and Hopi communities dealing with the declining use of coal. About $250,000 goes to Arizona State University for projects related to the power plant and mine closures.

Martin Pasqualetti, a professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at ASU, is working on possible solutions.

“Nothing happens if the Navajo don’t want it to happen,” said Pasqualetti, an expert on renewable energy, energy policy and human factors in science and technology. “That’s the first step.”

The Navajo will lose an estimated 800 jobs: 500 at the power plant and 300 to 350 at the mine. They’re looking at how to replace the jobs and the revenues that the power plant and mine provided.

The university will work on what the implications are of closing that plant, and what the opportunities might be for doing something new. How do you come up with new jobs? What are economic development options?

“$200,000 doesn’t get you very far, but we’ll do something,” Pasqualetti said.

Pasqualetti wrote a paper last year about the cultural challenges of implementing renewable energy on the reservation.

The plant is adjacent to the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation. They will be among tribal members who have the final say in what comes after the plant shutters.

“That is another aspect: getting the chapter interested in working with us,” he said. “It’s always a bit complicated; it doesn’t matter what entity you’re dealing with — there are always complications you don’t anticipate, and the Navajo nation is no exception. Even if we work with LeChee, there may have to be other characteristics we have to deal with.”

We spoke with Pasqualetti about the issues facing the area after the plant closes, the opportunities available, and how a giant art and energy project might take advantage of the area’s tourism draw.

Question: When the plant closes, what will the Navajo Nation have to work with?

Answer: You have a 2,000-acre site, you’ve got 800 miles of transmission lines that all emanate from there, you’ve got a water supply, and you’ve got workers, infrastructure, roads — everything is there. You don’t have to deal with any of that. To put in something else, you don’t have to find a new site, a new transmission corridor — it’s a very, very valuable site if you want to generate electricity, and that’s what they want to do.

Another aspect of this is renewable energy. Is that the best option? There’s been discussion of converting it to a gas plant. That doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, for a lot of reasons. It’s expensive to convert it. The closest nearby gas line is a line that goes across the Little Colorado at Cameron. I would imagine that’s about 80 miles in a straight line to the power plant. I can’t imagine that makes any economic sense.

Q: How could the issue of implementing renewable energy from a cultural standpoint be addressed?

A: There’s a group called the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI). It’s been in existence about 10 years. Every two years they have a competition to design the most beautiful renewable energy (facilities) you can design for a particular area. They did one in Dubai in the desert. They did one in New York, in Fresh Kills on Staten Island. They did one in Copenhagen and they did one in Santa Monica last year. ... The plant is closing, and 2020 is the next competition. If we can marry those two, the idea being that we can design a tourist attraction with renewables and make something strikingly beautiful. If you look up up LAGI ... not only is each one visually attractive, but they generate electricity. Some of them desalt water.

Getting back to your question, what about renewable energy on Navajo? You could put renewable energy there, but does it produce a lot of jobs? No. Jobs during construction, yes, but jobs during operation, no. ... You can operate that with a dozen to two people. Not much goes wrong. If you can combine these big arrays of photovoltaics with an enhancement there that is visually attractive and alluring and it’s the result of an international design competition ... that’s a possibility. There’s a lot of moving parts. You’ve got to get the Navajo to say yes. ... If you’ve got 3.5 million people going to Lake Powell, a million go to the dam, they go to Horseshoe Bend, they float down and fish, they go to Antelope Canyon — every time I’ve been up there it’s bus after bus after bus. Then you put this beautiful installation next to it that happens to be renewable and fit it in with the landscape and tell the Navajo story ... The Tate Museum in London is a great example. It’s a world-class museum in an old power plant.

Q: How will Page be helped to transition?

A: I read an article in the local Page paper about a month ago and they said they’ll be fine without the power plant ... you still have millions of people going there. It’s astounding the number of tour buses you see up there. ... It’s still the shortest way from Zion and Bryce to the Grand Canyon, so along the way they stop and see the dam, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

Top photo: Colorado River with the Page, Arizona, city area on the right and Navajo generating station in the background. Photo by Adbar/Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4502

 
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ASU students win top media award for American Indian coverage

Virtual-reality experience on historic school earns ASU students top media prize
September 15, 2017

Team of Cronkite School journalists honored by Native American Journalists Association for Phoenix Indian School project

A team of Arizona State University students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication won a top multimedia award from the nation’s leading professional organization dedicated to American Indian coverage.

Cronkite students in the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab took first place in the 2017 Native American Journalists Association media awards in the Student Category – TV for Best Feature Story. The award-winning project, “Walking in Two Worlds — The Phoenix Indian School,” is an interactive virtual-reality experience that uses 360-degree video to showcase life at the historic Phoenix Indian School.

Under the direction of Cronkite faculty member Retha Hill, director of the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, students work side by side with computer engineering, design and business students to create cutting-edge digital media products for regional and national media companies and other organizations.

“We wanted to show the impact of newer technology in bringing history alive using tools that aren’t super expensive,” Hill said. “VR gives us the ability to take viewers into a world they might not be familiar with and to take them back in history in an interactive way.”

The Cronkite students involved in the project included Terrnekia Collier, Weldon Grover, Stephanie Holland and Greg Walsh. They worked with the Heard Museum in Phoenix to add an interactive feature to the museum’s exhibit on the school.

Grover said the project hit home for him because his grandparents met at the Phoenix Indian School.

“It was very interesting to hear other personal stories from former students,” he said. “Working with 360 gave our group new perspectives and approaches to tell stories.”

For the project, the students interviewed three individuals who went to the school — which opened in 1891 and closed in 1990 — during different eras. The school was operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Phoenix and was the only non-reservation BIA school in the state. It became part of the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

The Cronkite students created 360 video, incorporating old photographs and photos from online and turning 2-D images into a 3-D experience. They also stitched together photographs of old school buildings with structures that remain on-site today to transport audiences back into that world. The students also captured audio and scenes from a reunion among those who had attended the school.

“This award-winning project shows the world a side of our history that was seemingly lost,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “We’re extremely proud of the hard work and amazing creativity of our students in using cutting-edge technologies to tell powerful stories of our past.”

The project was recognized at the NAJA’s Sept. 7–9 conference in Anaheim, California. The annual competition recognizes excellence in reporting by Native and non-Native journalists across the U.S. and Canada. There were more than 700 entries across the following categories: Student Division, Associate Division I, Associate Division II, Associate Division III, Professional Division I, Professional Division II and Professional Division III.

The NAJA serves and empowers Native journalists through programs and actions designed to enrich journalism and promote Native cultures. For more than 30 years, NAJA has remained committed to increasing the representation of American Indian journalists working in media, while encouraging both mainstream and tribal media to attain the highest standards of professionalism, ethics and responsibility.

Find the Cronkite students' video here.

Communications manager , Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

602-496-5118

 
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ASU-led project to rebuild tribal housing with eye to future, rooted in tradition

August 30, 2017

Partnership with Gila River Indian Community to bring sustainable, culturally relevant housing to Native American tribe

Gila River Indian Community residents haven’t chosen their housing since the 1800s.

Their U.S. government-furnished homes are uninspired, inefficient and lacking reference to culture, experts say.

A community-led research project headed up by Arizona State University has the potential to turn it all around.

“Indigenous people have an interrupted history in North America,” said Wanda Dalla Costa, a visiting eminent scholar from Canada based in ASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built EnvironmentASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment is part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering..

“Boarding schools, the reservation system and the outlawing of cultural traditions segregated indigenous people from their practices and norms. Thankfully, Native American traditions are being reintroduced in a number of disciplines, including architecture and community planning. The best way forward is often through our traditions.”

Dalla Costa is referring to a new collaboration between ASU and the Gila River Indian Community, which started in 2015. That’s when Dalla Costa was introduced to Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis at an event celebrating the life and work of poet Sherman Alexie. When Lewis discovered he was talking to a Native American architect, his mind immediately went to work.

“The opportunity to work with an acknowledged design expert such as Professor Dalla Costa doesn’t come around very often,” Lewis said. “In partnering with ASU in developing sustainable housing would be the first of its kind for our community, bringing together modern technology and traditional building methods as the foundation of our future homes.”

Lewis, an ASU alumnus, wanted the university to explore the idea of building affordable, sustainable and energy-efficient homes with an eye toward the traditional adobe structures that once dotted their reservation, about 40 miles south of Phoenix.

Wall of stoneThe Casa Grande National Monument, built in the 1300s, is one of the first adobe structures built on Gila River land. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Home building is at a healthy clip in the community. In the past two years, Gila River finished building approximately 475 single-family home structures, with plans to build an additional 600 in the next five years — and those 600 would incorporate designs from the project with Dalla Costa.

The partnership typifies one of ASU’s design aspirations by connecting with communities through mutually beneficial relationships, said Bryan Brayboy, ASU special adviser to the president and President’s Professor of indigenous education and justice.

“Wanda Dalla Costa is enacting ASU’s commitment to working with tribal communities in creating futures of their own making,” Brayboy said. “Her work, rooted in listening to the community’s needs, is innovative, insightful and imaginative. It is only the beginning of something very big.”

Dalla Costa said over thousands of years living in the Arizona climate, tribal members developed sophisticated methods of adapting to the hot and arid climate by building brick adobe homes, using shade structures for outdoor living, cooking outdoors to reduce heat gain in the home and, at times, living in subterranean dwellings.

“This is what climatic resiliency in architecture looks like, and principles such as this need to be reinvestigated here in Arizona,” said Dalla Costa, who is a member of the Saddle Lake First Nation of Northern Alberta.

According to Climate Central, Phoenix is experiencing 6.2 more days above 110 degrees since 1970, and the city’s nighttime temperatures have also increased almost 9 degrees since 2000 due to heat-island effect.  

Adobe home

A typical adobe-style home in the Gila River Indian Community, Gila Crossing, circa 1900. Photo courtesy of USC Special Collections

The heat wasn’t a real problem for the original inhabitants of Gila River, who built homes that suited their lifestyles.

“The adobe’s thick walls protected the tribe members from the heat and were very effective,” Dalla Costa said. “When you live in this kind of climate, you figure out real fast what works.”

What hasn’t worked so well are the homes furnished by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which was established in 1824 to oversee and carry out the federal government’s trade and treaty relations with indigenous tribes.

The first recorded adobe structure on Gila River dates back to the 1300s. The structure, known as the Casa Grande, is still standing. Adobe, along with sandwichMud packed with lumber forms and attached to a structural framework of posts. construction were the most common types of structures before the mid-1960s, when the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) started furnishing homes on the reservation. The HUD model was replicated across the USA, regardless of culture, climate or local materials and construction techniques.

Wooden home

Sandwich-style homes started popping up on the Gila River reservation in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of Kelley and Susan McGuinness/Defiance Photography

“It’s a one-size-fits-all approach to architecture,” Dalla Costa said. “The HUD home isn’t designed for this climate.”

That often translates to higher energy bills during the summer — some as high as $500 a month. For community members on fixed incomes, this can be a real hardship.

“A main goal is to contain utility costs with quality construction and energy-efficient methods,” Lewis said. “It’s not only important for our homes to reflect the past and the future, but as an end goal they must be energy-efficient.”

Buy-in from the community was also a must for Lewis, who wanted tribe members involved in the project from the start.

“It’s all about changing peoples’ perception that we’ll be creating something as beautiful and more efficient than they once had,” Dalla Costa said.

Dalla Costa and BriAnn Laban, a visiting doctoral student studying architecture from the University of Hawaii, met more than 100 residents in several community meetings and presentations to establish rapport and engage them as co-collaborators on the project.  

Two homes

HUD started building homes on the Gila River Reservation starting in the mid-1960s. Photo courtesy of Robert Nuss

“Most of them felt a disconnection to their homes,” said Laban, who is from the Hopi tribe in northern Arizona. “A lot of architects had come in before thinking they knew what the community needed, but having a Native American perspective was important to them.”

Dalla Costa’s team of architecture students is hoping to come up with a number of designs and begin a prototype home next year. The aim is to have a sample wall section ready in time for next May’s Mul-Chu-Tha fair and rodeo in Sacaton, Arizona. 

“A fully built prototype home would enable community members to touch and see the inside, and experience how these homes would look in a contemporary setting,” Dalla Costa said. “Once they walk inside, they can make a decision if this type of home would be a good fit for their community.”

 
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Law student brings ultimate people skills to ASU

August 16, 2017

Editor's note: This is part of a series of profiles of fall 2017 incoming ASU students.

Leah Tsinajinnie’s travels as a club member of the USA Ultimate Frisbee team has allowed her to see the world and make friends around the globe.

“Ultimate Frisbee is unique because if you play the sport or are part of the community, you can have an instant connection with someone else across the world,” said Tsinajinnie, who graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology in business administration in 2013.

“Everybody has a similar mind-set when they play the sport, so they feel connected.”

The 27-year-old Oakland native is hoping to make those same connections while at ASU.

In fact, she’s already off to a good start. A few months ago when Tsinajinnie visited ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus for the first time, she was given a personalized tour by Kate Rosier, director of ASU’s Indian Legal Program in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

“Walking around campus and getting to talk to a few people, everyone seemed so genuine,” Tsinajinnie said. “I could tell that I was going to fit in.”

Tsinajinnie brings a diverse range of perspectives — she’s half Navajo and half Filipino. She also lived the Middle East for 10 months as part of an Ultimate Peace fellowship program that uses the frisbee to bring youth from different cultures together.

Before Tsinajinnie hits the law books, we spoke to her about her new journey.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: When I visited the campus I was very impressed by how welcoming Kate Rosier was. She’s the director of the Indian Legal Program and offered me and my sister a personalized tour of the campus. The facilities are amazing.

Q: What drew you to your major?

A: I’ve always been interested in helping people. Understanding the legal system and knowing how it works is the most concrete way I can help people.

Q: What are you most excited to experience in your first semester?

A: I’m most excited about meeting the professors. I visited one class, and the professor was very interesting and made the subject fun.

Q: What do you like to brag about to your friends about ASU?

A: I like to brag on the law school because people don’t really understand how good it is. I’ve been telling everyone it’s a top 25-ranked school, eighth among public schools. I don’t have to go to an Ivy League school to get an equivalent education. I’ll get that at ASU Law.  

Q: What talents and skills are you bringing to the ASU community?

A: I have a lot of leadership skills. I’ve spoken in front of many large groups, been captains of teams before, and I’m very comfortable leading a group of people. I have a unique viewpoint given that I’m Navajo and Filipino. I’m able to give a unique perspective while understanding at the same time there are other perspectives, bringing people in and making them feel as if they are included.

Q: What’s your favorite TV show right now?

A: One hundred percent “Broad City.”

Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your college years?

A: I hope to have a variety of experiences regarding the law, and particularly get experience in Native American Indian law.

Q: What’s a fact about yourself that only your friends know?

A: I might have to get back to you on that …

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve a problem in our world, what would you choose?

A: Well, $40 million is not a lot of money, but if I had that much I’d probably use it towards a literacy programs for kids and adults.

Q: What’s your prediction for this year’s Territorial Cup?

A: Let’s say 38-31, ASU. 

Top photo: Incoming ASU Law student Leah Tsinajinnie (photographed at the Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus Wednesday) has competed as a club member of the USA Ultimate Frisbee team. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

 
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New San Carlos Apache College aims to preserve culture, prepare for future

San Carlos college has values based on Apache concept of Go’zhoo: to be at peace
August 13, 2017

Tribal values key to new school; ASU staff offered insight to community members on how to create an institution from scratch

When the first students walk into classes at the new San Carlos Apache College on Monday, they’ll not only be learning biology and accounting, they’ll be part of a mission to preserve their language and culture and drive economic prosperity in their community.

Arizona’s third tribal college opened Friday on the San Carlos Apache Reservation after two and a half years of intense planning and preparation, much of it done with the assistance of Arizona State University.

More than five years ago, the chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, Terry Rambler, had a vision to create a college, and he asked ASU President Michael Crow for help. The Apaches were able to leverage the expertise of Maria Hesse, vice provost for academic partnerships at ASU, and Jacob Moore, the university’s assistant vice president for tribal relations.

Chairman Rambler

San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler speaks at the grand opening of the new San Carlos Apache College on Friday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

At Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Rambler said that San Carlos Apache College is for everyone in the community — high school students, tribal employees and elders.

“This is the beginning of something great. This is a way to say no to alcohol and drugs by using our minds in a good way and not abusing them,” he said.

“This is a way to regain respect among ourselves. This is a way not to lose our identity as Apaches.”

Hesse is the former president of Chandler-Gilbert Community College, and was on the team that founded the college in the late 1980s. So she was able to offer insight to the community members on how to create an institution from scratch, working with the tribe to have a long-term plan in place to ensure they would open on time.

“If you want to start classes in August, here’s what you need to do in July,” she said. “What are the priority hires? If you want to do electrical wiring in July, you need to rip everything out by June. We talked about the program of study and class schedule.

“Even if they start with 50 students, it’s a humongous undertaking.”

Ahumada and Hesse

The college's founding president, Martin Ahumada, thanks ASU Vice Provost for Academic Partnerships Maria Hesse, by giving her a tribal burden basket at San Carlos Apache College's grand opening. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Classes will be held in a stone building in downtown San Carlos that was the previous tribal administrative headquarters. Workers were still renovating the building into classrooms during the ceremony on Friday and expected to work straight through the weekend until the start of classes Monday morning.

At first, the college will offer general-education courses in English, math, biology, chemistry, accounting and computer literacy. Eventually, the curriculum will be expanded and associate’s degrees will be offered. Tuition will be $34.50 per credit hour, so a full-time semester of 12 credits would cost $414.

For now, San Carlos is offering classes as a site of Tohono O’odham Community College, a tribal college in Sells. That allows San Carlos to be accredited until it earns its accreditation independently in about four years.

Accreditation is critically important because it allows students to qualify for financial aid and for their credits to transfer to universities. Like at all Arizona two-year colleges, students at San Carlos will be able to map out their majors to efficiently transfer to ASU.

The college will have core values based on the Apache concept of Go’zhoo — to be at peace.

Tohono O’odham Community College is a good blueprint for how tribal culture is integral to the vision. All students take two classes in “Himdag” — the lifelong elements of culture, values, language and way of life for the tribe. The college has a committee made up of staff, faculty, students and community members that works to incorporate “Himdag” into every aspect of college life.

“They don’t teach anything that’s out of sync with their culture,” said Moore, who is a member of the Tohono O’odham tribe.

Ahumada hug

San Carlos Apache College President Martin Ahumada receives a hug from one of his former mentors following the grand-opening ceremonies. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Martin Ahumada, the new president of San Carlos Apache College, said that preserving culture is vital for the Apaches.

“It has been known for many decades that the knowledge of one’s native tongue and being well grounded in your cultural traditions is important for self-esteem,” said Ahumada, the former interim president of Dine College on the Navajo reservation, the country’s first tribal college, founded in 1968.

Among the San Carlos Apache, few members younger than 35 know the language, according to Cordella Moses, a curriculum specialist for the tribe’s language-preservation department. She helped to design the Apache Language and Culture course, which is offered at 5 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday this semester.

“A lot of people think ‘culture’ refers to ceremonial dancing, but culture means a lot more than that. It’s our art, how we make moccasins and beadwork, and our meditation and our prayers,” she said.

“If you don’t know the language, you can’t pray.”

Ahumada said that besides Apache culture and the general-education courses, he would like to prepare students for jobs in San Carlos, which has a casino and a new medical center.

“We want courses in health sciences, natural resources. We’re going to explore cybersecurity and entrepreneurship,” he said.

“We know the Apache way of life was long anchored in farming, and we want to enable members of the community to return to farming.”

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU

The college received a $1.5 million federal grant in 2014 to get started, and the tribal council recently agreed to fund it with $2.5 million.

ASU’s support for the tribal college is part of a larger agreement between the university and the community, signed in 2013, that will include design and construction assistance when the San Carlos Apache are ready to build a campus; college-readiness and healthy-lifestyle programming for young people; and academic counseling and personal support for San Carlos freshmen and transfer students through the Native American Achievement Program at ASU.

Hesse said that Crow agreed with Rambler’s idea of jump-starting the tribe’s business community with the college.

“He felt like they were like-minded in their shared belief that education brings opportunity and hope to our youth while fueling economic development,” she said at the opening ceremony Friday.

“You can address the workforce training needs for employers, and you can offer lifelong learning opportunities to members of this community.”

Like many reservations, San Carlos faces poverty, unemployment and other socioeconomic challenges, Moore said.

“From a K-12 perspective, any number of our tribal communities have struggling schools. Someone with a more critical eye would say, ‘How can they be a feeder system to a college?’

“But the beauty is this idea of having a vision and some expectation that these students do have someplace to go and a future.”

Top photo: Founding President Martin Ahumada (second from left) thanks Tohono O'odham Community College President Paul Robertson by giving him a tribal burden basket at the grand opening of the new San Carlos Apache College in San Carlos, Arizona, on Friday. Tohono O'odham Community College is using its accreditation to cover the new college to allow its students to qualify for financial aid and for their credits to transfer to universities. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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True Sioux Hope Foundation, ASU partner to offer Native students a big boost

ASU, True Sioux partnership gives 2 Native students chance for college degree
July 21, 2017

Scholarships for two new Sun Devils part of nascent alliance to strengthen community on economically hard-hit Pine Ridge Reservation

Last April, Mariah McGhee had resigned herself to the fact that college wasn’t in the cards.

McGhee, a class valedictorian who had often visited Arizona, had dreamed of attending Arizona State University since she was 5. But McGhee (pictured above with her mom) knew her family couldn’t afford out-of-state tuition, and she was adamant about not racking up personal debt through student loans. The 18-year-old was prepared to start her work career without a degree.

Then a miracle dropped in her lap: a full four-year scholarship to ASU.

“It wasn’t just a surprise but a real shock,” said McGhee, who graduated from Red Cloud High School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “When they brought me into the principal’s office to give me some news, I thought I was in trouble.”

Savannah Jacobs

Savannah Jacobs (pictured with her father, Chuck Jacobs, at their home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota) is one of the two students sponsored by True Sioux Hope Foundation. She will study political science at ASU. Her plan is to get her degree and then “come back to Pine Ridge and help in the fight” to improve lives there. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

When McGhee arrived, she also encountered classmate Savannah Jacobs, who also thought she was in trouble. After a few suspenseful moments, they were told to pack their bags because they were headed to ASU.

“We both cried and had tears streaming down our faces. It was a huge gift,” recalled Jacobs, who plans on majoring in political science. McGhee said she will study business entrepreneurship at W. P. Carey School of Business.

Their scholarships are a result of a new initiative between the ASU FoundationFormed in 2014, the True Sioux Hope Foundation is a nonprofit organization aimed at combating poverty, improving education and creating sustainable organizations for the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation., the Center for Indian Education and the True Sioux Hope Foundation, which is sponsoring a pair of Native students from Pine Ridge to attend ASU.

“Given who we are as an institution, with a charterASU’s charter reads: “ASU is a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.” that clearly outlines our work in being inclusive, interested in how our students succeed, and that we assume responsibility for people and society, this opportunity is perfect for us,” said Bryan Brayboy, ASU special adviser to the president and President’s Professor of indigenous education and justice. “We want to partner with Pine Ridge in order to help them define and enact their future. This starts, in part, with Mariah and Savannah.”

Brayboy added that ASU is an excellent place for McGhee and Jacobs to seek their higher education as the university will welcome more than 2,700 indigenous students this fall and is responsible for 20 percent of the nation’s American Indian doctoral students.

Twila True

True Sioux Hope Foundation founder Twila True addresses the crowd and thanks them for coming to see their programs at Pine Ridge. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

That’s one of the reasons why True Sioux Hope Foundation leader Twila True partnered with ASU.

“They got a whisper of what we were trying to do and said, ‘Tell us more,’” said True, a philanthropist, entrepreneur, and co-founder and CEO of True Investments, a real estate private equity firm based in Newport Beach, Calif., where True resides.

As a youngster, True was whisked to California from Pine Ridge as part of the Indian Relocation Act of 1956, a federal program intended to encourage Native Americans to leave Indian reservations to acquire vocational skills and assimilate into the general population throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Today True is a successful businessperson, but she never forgot her roots.

“The Pine Ridge Reservation has always had a place in my heart,” True said. “I had tribe, I had family and I had culture.”

True also wants to change part of their culture — the one that gets the most ink these days.

Pine Ridge is considered the most economically disadvantaged reservation in the United States with a 90 percent unemployment rate and average annual household income of $3,500. The student dropout rate is over 70 percent, and the teacher turnover rate is eight times higher than that of the U.S. national average.

“You can’t affect change unless it’s long-term,” True said regarding the scholarships. “We’re all parents now. True Sioux Hope and ASU are now parents of these girls, and we’re going to take them and graduate them from college.”

That was a sentiment echoed by the ASU Foundation.

“Through our partnership with the True Sioux Hope Foundation and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, we believe we can work together to rebuild and strengthen capacity in this culturally rich community while ensuring a positive impact for future generations,” said Gretchen Buhlig, CEO of ASU Foundation, the independent nonprofit that raises and invests private donations in support of ASU.

The two scholarships are just the beginning of the partnership. Although details are still being ironed out, there are plans afoot for ASU to help rebuild and strengthen the capacity of Pine Ridge. Brayboy says this will be done through education, housing, economic development, and health and well-being initiatives created by ASU and True Sioux Hope to ensure positive impact for generations to come. He was quick to point out that this is all happening in partnership with and at the direction of the Pine Ridge community, and he hopes that it will become a model for other universities and entities looking to boost other tribal communities throughout the country.

McGhee and Jacobs said it’s already having an impact on their lives. The two have vowed they'll return to the reservation after graduation and use their education to improve the lives of others. McGhee wants to start a business there while Jacobs would like to start a fund or organization to enable Native students like herself to go to college.

“The goal is to get a college degree from ASU, come back to Pine Ridge and help in the fight,” Jacobs said.

Top photo: True Sioux Hope Foundation scholarship recipient Mariah McGhee (right) and her mother, Donna McGhee, pose for a portrait on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on July 7. McGhee plans to study business entrepreneurship at ASU. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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A blessing and a nuisance: Native American views of the annual monsoon

Some tribes view monsoon rains as life-sustaining; others, destructive.
Beliefs can vary within any one group, ASU prof says.
July 13, 2017

Tribes from around Arizona share how they view the summer rainy season

The annual summer monsoon: torrential thunderstorms, heavy rain, damaged roofs, uprooted trees, dusty vehicles and repeated trips to the car wash.

Many Arizonans approach it with a sense of dread, panic or annoyance.

They’re not indigenous peoples of Arizona.

“Moisture in any form — whether it’s flowing water, lakes, ponds, winter storms and monsoon season — is the sustenance that helps the Hopi people to survive,” said Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office in northeastern Arizona.

“Rain is the ultimate blessing to our people and answer to our prayers.”

Given the varying degrees of beliefs among Arizona tribes, indigenous people within the same tribe often hold different perspectives about rain and water, said Tennille Marley, an assistant professor in Arizona State University’s American Indian Studies program.

“There are many different beliefs about how people view or feel about the rain, from some who don’t think about the rain to those who believe it’s sacred and necessary for life,” said Marley, a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe near Show Low, Arizona.

Kuwanwisiwma said when the Hopi clans originally migrated from northern America to Arizona, water became a valued part of their survival in the harsh climate. As a result, they learned to plant and rotate their crops around the monsoon, considered their New Year.

He says the Hopis traditionally plant their crops — corn, beans and watermelon — in May and continue throughout the summer. Kuwanwisiwma said they’re able to harvest those crops without irrigation and on about 12 inches of annual rainfall.

“It’s really a reflection of how the seeds have adapted and are proudly among the most drought-resistant in the world,” he said.

He added that when the Hopi people hear the first thunder of the season, “it’s a great feeling that rain is going to come.”

The Ak-Chin Indian Community, about an hour south of Phoenix, also has great reverence for rain and monsoon season, said Jeremy Johns, a museum technician for the tribe.

“The first monsoon is considered our January 1st, and we refer to it as Saguaro Fruit Month,” Johns said. “It’s an important time for us culturally and agriculturally, and we look at it as a new start, a renewal, a refreshing.”

Johns said his ancestors grew their crops in flooded washes on the 22,000-acre reservation and monsoon rains were a way for them to harness water and grow their crops. When it didn’t rain, Johns said his ancestors starved and were forced to supplement their diets by hunting and gathering.

He said that today the reservation still uses a flood-based irrigation system to grow corn, tepary beans, watermelon, O’odham squash and Devil’s Claw, a wild plant used for basketry.

Johns said because Ak-Chin is one of the smaller tribes in Arizona, they often harvest their crops with other O’odham tribesThe sister tribes are: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community and the Tohono O’odham Nation. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community includes the Piipaash. to build their food supply and stay connected.

“It’s a way to keep those cultural ties strong amongst us and work with each other as much as possible,” Johns said.

For the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, whose land sits along the Colorado River and straddles the Arizona/California border, the monsoon is no longer as important as it once was.

“Our ancestors were once dependent on monsoon season and rotated their crops around it, but we’re not really doing that anymore,” said John Algots, director of the Fort Mojave Physical Resources Department. “Monsoon season is more of a nuisance than anything else.”

That’s because the tribe commercially farms thousands of acres of cotton, and monsoon weather can cost them millions.

“The heat combined with the humidity sterilizes the cotton,” Algots explained. “Monsoons also cause some local flooding, though we don’t really get strong ones like you do in central Arizona.”

Like the Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Fort Mojave tribe used the same flooded-wash method to grow crops, specifically corn and squash. However, since becoming a commercial farming enterprise focusing on cotton, alfalfa hay, Bermuda seed and fiber, rain is not culturally or agriculturally significant.

“Our water source comes from the Colorado River, and we have the same vegetation and the same ability to grow crops whether it rains or not,” Algots said.

That same attitude toward the monsoon is also held by Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, but they view water as sacred, said Albert Nelson, acting manager for the tribe’s Cultural Development department.

“Agriculturally, we don’t really plant here and we don’t have any superstitions about the monsoons or the rains, nor do we have any stories about monsoons or rain,” Nelson said. “But we do look at water as being sacred because that’s how our people were created.”

Nelson said the tribe believes their origins traced to Montezuma Well in the Verde Valley, about 95 miles north of Phoenix.

“At that time the well was actually dried and then a flood happened underneath the earth,” Nelson said. “Our people then climbed out of the well, and then the water rose up to the present-day level.”

Nelson said the people who didn’t make it out of the well turned into fish and other water-based creatures, and as a result, his people don’t eat fish.

“We have the belief that things that come out of the water are our relatives,” he said.

Beyond agricultural needs and spiritual beliefs, ASU’s Marley added that water is tied directly to Native American health.

“Because of colonization, water isn’t consumed as a primary beverage and has been replaced by soda and other non-indigenous drinks, which can contribute to health issues,” she said.

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Native students experience week of college life in ASU’s Inspire camp

July 3, 2017

Nearly 100 high schoolers from tribal nations in Arizona work on research projects, live in the dorm and connect with ASU resources

It was day three of ASU’s 2017 Inspire program, the weeklong camp that offers high schoolers from tribal nations in Arizona a taste of college life, and the Arizona State University Memorial Union’s Changemaker space was abuzz.

The young scholars were working in 19 student teams, brainstorming and mapping out the action research plans they’d share with peers and families at the closing Capstone Project Showcase at week’s end. Their topic choices were informed by their own interests and the previous day’s panel presentations and discussions related to indigenous education; health; tribal sovereignty; and planning, architecture and construction in Indian Country. 

The team of Kristen Sanderson, Darian Wauneka, Mackyl Ortega and April Yazzie, all rising high school seniors, had decided to pursue a research action plan related to health and well-being. 

Sanderson’s career interests are nursing or dentistry. Wauneka leans toward optometry. Ortega is interested in working with pharmaceuticals, and Yazzie said she’d like to work for a company like Apple or Intel.

“Individually we suggested alcoholism, hospital misdiagnoses, heat-related deaths and elder neglect,” explained Sanderson. 

As a group, they eventually settled on elder neglect by deciding to draw one topic lottery-style, Wauneka said. 

Having done a lot of internet research in Inspire’s indigenous reading and writing workshop that morning, they worked quickly at the whiteboard, referring to the saved data on their phones and adding a few more ideas as they saw the flow of their research coming together.

A neighboring team had chosen to explore land conservation on tribal nations, and what can be done about the U.S. government’s pollution of the land. 

“Some of the land appears to be unused; there’s no homes or burial grounds, so the government thinks, ‘Why can’t we build out here?’ In reality, that land is used for grazing or for growing crops and the ecosystem is thrown off by it,” said Noah Anaya, a 12th-grade student.

Another group looked at the election of the Navajo Nation president and how during the race the candidates’ focus on tradition and government affect the outcome.

“If the value placed on government is too high, it’s seen as a conflict with traditional values. I would like to see these values balanced, rather than one taking precedent over the other,” senior Vanessa Lee said.

“Outstanding work!” English Professor Jim Blasingame encouragingly shouted to all, as he finished a first lap around the room offering feedback to teams. “These are topics doctoral students are doing dissertations on.

“You’re worldly and you have your heads in the right place. Remember, you are your best resource,” he continued, as he offered tips about how to discern solid, reputable research facts from opinion. “Be wary of sources that use words like would, should, could, might. That author just wants to sell you on their ideas.” 

Immersed in campus life

ASU’s college-readiness summer program Inspire, held June 18-24, saw nearly 100 American Indian students from tribal nations in Arizona participate in activities on ASU’s Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses and in the greater community.

Rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors had the opportunity to practice and grow academic and personal success behaviors by integrating reading, writing and research skills in culturally relevant, project-based learning.

“You’re all capable and you’re going to learn new things and will grow,” said Jacob Moore, ASU assistant vice president for tribal relations, in his welcome to participants and their families on June 18. “Open your mind to possibilities and you may see some things differently than maybe what you’ve seen in high school. This is a chance for you to envision yourselves on campus and to see for yourself what being in college is like.” 

During Inspire, students experienced university life in a Tempe campus residence hall. They ate in dining halls and enjoyed free time and team-building sessions in the Sun Devil Fitness Center. They worked with their peers and instructors in different buildings on the Tempe campus. They also enjoyed sessions at the Desert Botanical Garden, the Heard Museum and the Indian Legal Program at ASU’s Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus. 

Throughout the program the high schoolers were guided by 11 ASU indigenous students who served as team mentors, providing tips and advice that come best from near-peers. 

“Living on campus has been interesting. Sharing a room and talking with someone else who has similar interests in going to college is great,” said senior Tyler Salt.

During one of the sessions, the students used the me3 tool to explore majors and careers that interested them, providing a glimpse of their future after high school.

“The career exploration has been my favorite part. I’ve always wanted to be a business administrator, and this is giving me the motivation to pursue it when I come [to ASU] next year,” said senior Hailey Veltha.

“I wanted to be a lawyer, but this has showed me different opportunities that are available to me in the different programs,” Anaya said. 

By the end of the program, participants were connected with American Indian students, staff, faculty and support services at the university.

“Programs like Inspire are designed to motivate high school students to begin pursuing higher education, and so it’s important to connect them to the university in general,” said Lorenzo Chavez, director of family and student initiatives for Access ASU.

The program, now in its second year, emphasized the accessibility of the different resources at each of the ASU campuses with a resource fair representing ASU’s schools and colleges.

“We want Inspire participants to feel welcome and comfortable at ASU and understand the many opportunities they’ll find in terms of academics and support. Of course, we hope they will decide to apply to, enroll in and graduate from ASU in the future,” said Jeanne Hanrahan, director of community outreach for the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, and University College.

“We received about 250 applications for this year’s program and could afford to offer places to 100 students. It's clear that interest in a program like this is strong,” she added. 

This year’s Inspire program was sponsored by a grant from the Tohono O'odham Nation to ASU's University College and the Office of American Indian Initiatives, with support from Access ASU.

Chavez and Annabell Bowen, director of American Indian initiatives in the ASU Office of the President, presented a session for parents and families on the opening morning of Inspire. Bowen spoke about the cultural environment at ASU, and Chavez shared information about applying to the university, financial aid and what families can do to help their students in their decision about college. 

“We have more than 2,800 American Indian students at ASU, making it one of the largest Native student bodies in the country,” Bowen told family members, “and enrollment numbers have been increasing every year.”

As part of her work in the Office of American Indian Initiatives, Bowen heads up the university’s Tribal Nations Tour program, in which current ASU students, faculty and staff travel to all of the tribal communities in Arizona in outreach to K-12 students.

“We even talk with kids in Head Start programs,” said Bowen. “It’s never too early to encourage children to start thinking about college and to have them get firsthand knowledge of the first steps they need to take to be ready.”

Will Argeros contributed to this story; william.argeros@asu.edu.

Top photo: Students make their way to the Indian Legal Program in the Beus Center for Law and Society at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus during ASU's Inspire program for Native high school students. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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ASU program gives Native American entrepreneurs a boost

June 23, 2017

Aiming to create ripple effect of economic change in tribal communities, Inno-NATIONS initiative hosts its inaugural cohort

The presenter went around the conference room on Friday morning, asking participants if they thought of themselves as entrepreneurs.

Crickets.

Not one of them — eight Native American business owners — raised their hand or said yes.

“We’re taught to be humble in that sense, not to boast,” said Kelsey Haake, a Phoenix-based certified financial manager and estate planner. “We haven’t been ingrained to think ourselves of that way.”

Haake (pictured above, center), originally from the Inupiaq Tribe in northwestern Alaska, said humility is heavily emphasized in Indian Country and that Native Americans are taught not think of themselves as better than others or go out of their way to stand out from the crowd.

Host Traci Morris smiled knowingly, anticipating the reason. But she wanted everyone to give themselves a pat on the back for a job well done.

“I never called myself an entrepreneur either, but I would argue that you’re all innovators, business people and entrepreneurs,” said Morris, ASU’s American Indian Policy Institute director and Inno-NATIONS founder. “If we weren’t great innovators and adaptors, we wouldn’t have survived Colonialism. I think Native Americans are the greatest entrepreneurs of all.”

Looking to create opportunity, the American Indian Policy Institute in collaboration with ASU’s Entrepreneurship + Innovation has developed an intertribal initiative called Inno-NATIONS, which champions indigenous entrepreneurship and economic development across America.

The goal is to support up-and-coming Native American businesses and ignite their enterprises to fuel sustainable tribal economies by rejuvenating and modernizing traditional trade networks.

Morris said by spearheading innovative partnerships and leveraging resources from ASU, tribes and community organizations, she hopes that Inno-NATIONS will create a “collision community,” causing a ripple effect of economic change in tribal communities.

This year marks the inaugural cohort with Native entrepreneurs, which met from June 22-24. After an opening reception in downtown Phoenix, they got down to business. Through a learning lab, strategy discussions, multimedia presentations and mentorship, the eight participants worked on and learned about business pitches, storytelling, indigenous innovation principles, strategic planning sessions, startup models and business goals. They also read financial statements, took quizzes, watched videos and read several articles by ASU professors.

Morris said after this weekend, they’ll also receive six months of follow-up business counseling, webinars, membership in the Arizona American Indian Chamber of Commerce and a feature article in The Visionary magazine.

The information learned in these sessions was valuable, said Chickasaw Nation citizen Kristen Dorsey. She traveled from Los Angeles to participate.

“These activities were really helpful to me in defining markets and speaking to them effectively,” said Dorsey, who has a Southeastern-inspired line of jewelry. “It was definitely worth the trip.”

For Hopi Tribe member Delvan Polelonema, who owns Naqwatsveni Skateboarding, it was more about receiving confirmation that he was on the right track.

“It’s helpful to know someone else who's been there believes in what you’re doing,” said Polelonema. “I now have more confidence in myself and my product.”

So does Haake, who by the end of the session started to get used to the idea of calling herself an "entrepreneur.”

“I’m more open to the label of calling myself an entrepreneur after this formal business training,” Haake said. “I can say it now without feeling strange about it.”

The entire Inno-NATIONS Inaugural Community Cohort includes: Marian Declay, Native Organization Entertainment; Kristen Dorsey, Kristen Dorsey Designs; Adrian Dotson, ETD Inc; Kelsey Haake, Inuit Financial Services; Rykelle Kemp, Wooden Nickel Store; Candice Mendez, Salt V.Mo Consulting; Delvan Polelonema, Naqwatsveni Skateboarding and Asia Soleil Yazzie, Lady Yazzie.

Top photo: (From left) Delvan Polelonema, owner of Naqwatsveni Skateboarding; Kelsey Haake, a Phoenix-based certified financial manager and estate planner; and Rykelle Kemp, owner of the Wooden Nickel, listen during the Inno-NATIONS workshop Friday in Phoenix. by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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