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First Navajo female surgeon among speakers at WFU event celebrating American Indian History Month

November 6, 2008

Wake Forest University will celebrate National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month by hosting “Native American Voices,” a symposium featuring five nationally-renowned American Indian leaders who will discuss how they have broken through cultural barriers to achieve their success. 

The event, which is sponsored by Wake Forest’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, will be held at 5 p.m. Nov. 14 in Greene Hall, Room 145.  It is free and open to the public.  A reception will be held following the event.

The featured speakers will be:

  • Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord, the first Navajo female surgeon in the U.S.; associate dean of student and multicultural affairs, professor of surgery and psychiatry and practicing general surgeon at Dartmouth Medical School.
  • Joyce Dugan, the only woman ever elected to serve as principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; director of external affairs and communications at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel.
  • Andrew Conseen Duff, government advocate for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives and education in Native communities; engineer at Albuquerque Service Center.
  • Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; accountant and businessman.
  • Joseph Garcia, president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI); governor of Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), New Mexico; founder and electrical engineer at MistyLake Consulting Services.

“Through the lens of autobiography, these highly accomplished American Indian leaders will describe their own journeys and the opportunities and challenges unique to American Indians,” said Ulrike Wiethaus, professor of religion and American ethnic studies at Wake Forest. 

The event was initiated by Wake Forest junior Lucretia Hicks, a Cherokee and founder and president of Wake Forest’s new Native American Student Association (NASA).  Wake Forest has 16 American Indian students enrolled this year.  

Hicks established NASA with the help of seven other American Indian students and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.  She plans for the organization to host events, like the symposium, to help encourage and support American Indian students on campus, recruit American Indian students to Wake Forest, and expose people to and educate them about American Indian culture and issues.  

“It was such a culture shock for me when I came to Wake Forest because I had always been part of really small communities where I had other Native people around me,” said Hicks.  “Other people here are shocked when they found out that I am Native American.  They forget that Native Americans still exist.  Then, they often ask me questions that reveal how they generalize and stereotype Native Americans.  Not everybody has totem poles or lives in teepees.  We all have our own cultures.”

Wiethaus also sees the event as an opportunity to highlight the accomplishments of North Carolina tribes and nurture relationships between Wake Forest, North Carolina tribes, the NCAI and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to promote higher education opportunities among Native Americans.      

Additional funds for the event were provided by Wake Forest’s Religion and Public Engagement Initiative. 

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month” to recognize the intertribal cultures and educate the public about the heritage, history, art and traditions of the American Indian and Alaska Native people.

For more information about the event, call (336) 758-5864.

Press Contacts:

Pam Barrett
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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