Slideshow of CIE Relaunch Event, May 6
—photos by Tom Story and Jeston Morris
ASU’s Center for Indian Education (CIE), now in its 52nd year, held a re-launch event May 6 to honor the work and people that have come before and to engage the future with a spirit of rededication as the center charts a course for its next 50 years. [see photo slideshow below]
The day opened with a blessing ceremony conducted by Michael Begaye, director of American Indian Student Support Services at ASU, in the center’s new spaces on the third floor of Payne Hall. A formal program followed in West Hall keynoted by Dr. Monty Roessel, the son of CIE founder Robert A. Roessel, Jr. and Ruth Wheeler Roessel. Roessel (pictured at right) is superintendent of Rough Rock Community School. The school – established in 1966 as the first American Indian community-controlled school in the country – was co-founded by Bob Roessel as part of the Center for Indian Education’s early work and at the behest of the Navajo Nation.
In opening the formal program, ASU President Michael Crow recognized the work of the past directors of the Center for Indian Education and the center’s contribution in making ASU the place it is today.
“The former directors have had a huge impact on the trajectory of the university,” noted President Crow. “The intellectual heritage of ASU is connected to this center. ASU’s objectives of social transformation and community engagement aren’t something that just happened overnight; they are embedded in its very genetic code. This university is different – this community, this state, this country is different – because of this center,” emphasized Crow, who also noted that ASU is terrifically proud to be the largest producer of PhD, JD, and undergraduate Native students in the country.
“When the seeds of the Center for Indian Education were planted in 1959 it was a risky enterprise,” observed CIE co-director Professor Teresa McCarty in presenting an overview of the center’s history. “Arizona had granted citizenship and voting rights to Native people only 11 years earlier; federal policy terminated 109 tribes between 1953 and 1964 and 2.5 million acres were removed from protected status. The social landscape was extremely inhospitable—indeed, racist—and national policies conveyed an ‘erase and replace’ attitude toward Native languages, religion, and culture.
“The founders, though they could see the light of change only dimly, crafted a clear mission for change by being a unique education resource and partner to Native nations of Arizona, leading the development of ASU’s Indian education program, and playing a major role in national research on Indian education."
Through the years the center's mission has expanded to meet a changing educational, social, and economic context. In outlining the current center directors' vision for the future, co-director Professor Bryan Brayboy emphasized that the center is gaining recognition as a physical and intellectual repository for Indigenous research, policy and practice globally.
"We look forward to continuing to help address pressing problems as outlined by Native nations, and amplifying the voice of tribal communities," observed Brayboy.
The center's current projects reflect its special expertise in preparing Native teachers, applying Native knowledge in learning environments, and working with communities to revitalize heritage languages on the brink of extinction.
In his keynote remarks, Monty Roessel talked about his father's and the center's involvement in launching the Rough Rock Demonstration School in 1966. "Indian-controlled education was practically unheard of at the time. But this was an innovative school built around a community," he noted.
Today it is a model for success in bilingual and bicultural education, with immersion programs in Navajo and a curriculum that gives students a strong sense of self and their place in the world by integrating traditional values and beliefs.
Despite his school's success, Roessel lamented the fact that of the 16 Navajo school districts, only two are led by superintendents who are Indian. "Where have our leaders gone?" he asked. "We need to be directing our future; true Indian education means creating the menu and not just selecting from it."