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George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Rebecca Riall
First Nations Educational and Cultural Center

Dennis Lamenti
First Nations Educational and Cultural Center

Last modified: Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Native Americans at IU Bloomington celebrate the opening of a new cultural center

April 3, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Native Americans at Indiana University Bloomington will celebrate the opening of a new center for American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians on Wednesday, April 11 in Eigenmann Hall.

The First Nations Educational and Cultural Center (FNECC), located on the sixth floor of Eigenmann Hall, is the culmination of efforts by students, faculty and staff of Native American heritage, with the support of many others. It joins the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, La Casa and the Asian Culture Center as campus resource centers serving students of color.

An open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. will feature a drum group, Native American food provided by Middleway House Food Works and remarks by students and administrators. The First Nations Educational and Cultural Center is funded by the Office of the Vice President for Institutional Development and Student Affairs, and the Office of the Provost.

The public is invited to attend the free open house at Eigenmann Hall in rooms 601 and 602.

"Establishment of the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center builds on Indiana University's long-standing record of recognizing the cultural contributions of people whose history, culture and contributions have not been properly acknowledged nor celebrated," said Charlie Nelms, IU vice president for institutional development and student affairs. "The center will be a place of learning for native peoples, indeed for all students, faculty and staff at Indiana University."

The FNECC will provide centralized support and information resources to American Indian students, staff, faculty, community members and prospective students, as well as to the general public.

"Much of our programming serves the Native and non-Native communities alike," said Meredith Johnson, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, the FNECC Steering Committee and the American Indian Student Association. "We organize programming that shows Native people as members of contemporary diverse cultures, as people who haven't vanished and whose cultures change just like other cultures."

The center's mission statement also includes as goals actively addressing education of and about Native peoples in the state of Indiana and supporting university efforts to recruit and retain Native American students.

"There are tribes still within Indiana -- the Pokagon Band of Potawotami, the Miami Nation of Indiana and the Wea Tribe," said Dennis Lamenti, a member of the Navajo and Zuni nations and co-chair of IU Bloomington's Native American Graduate Students Association.

"There are also people from tribal nations outside Indiana who have moved individually to Indiana. IU Bloomington seems to have some new commitment to increasing minority enrollment and the First Nations center can provide guidance on how to reach these diverse groups, as well as reservations and urban centers across the U.S. for recruitment," Lamenti said.

There are 105 enrolled students at IU Bloomington and 324 students at all eight IU campuses who identify themselves as American Indians, as well as three faculty members at IU Bloomington.

"We've been lucky along the way to have so much support from the broader Indiana Native communities and from many non-Natives who have supported us either because they see our need or because they would like a central place to find out about our cultures for themselves," said FNECC steering committee member and NAGSA co-chair Rebecca Riall, a member of the Cherokee Tribe of Northeast Alabama.

Since 1997, Native Americans have worked informally out of other places on campus, most recently out of the Grad House, in space borrowed from the McNair Scholars Program.

The FNECC grew out of First Nations at IU, which had held a series of pow-wows on campus. It supported the founding of the Indiana Native American Scholars in Higher Education Network (I-NASHEN), the first statewide Native education network and represented IU Bloomington at the new annual American Indians in Indiana Education Conference.

In the past year, the organization has held several successful programs on campus, such as the Second Annual Native Film Series, which brought Cayuga actor and activist Gary Farmer to Bloomington for a series of public talks. Students also worked on outreach to local schools and teamed up with the Mathers Museum to develop educational information and a children's event. FNECC is also a co-sponsor of the Wild Onion Festival being presented by the Native American Student Alliance at IUPUI on April 13-14.

On Monday, April 7, the center will present the Marilyn Cleveland Distinguished Artist Workshop, at which several American Indian beadworkers will teach the basics of contemporary beadworking used by many indigenous nations throughout North and South America.

The workshop/lecture honors Marilyn Cleveland, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and a White Mountain Apache. She is a local tribal elder who has long provided wisdom, support and craft instruction to IU Bloomington students and provided considerable outreach in local schools.

For more information about the workshop, send an e-mail to