Faculty Dispelled Myths Across Waters, Cultures

Nov 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 22-2: Crossing Borders, Winter 2010, Culture, Tribal College News

EYE TO EYE. Steve Fadden talks to Hacettepe University students in Ankara, Turkey, about the Native American flute.

In November 2009, Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA, Santa Fe, NM) creative writing faculty member Evelina Zuni Lucero (Isleta/Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo) participated in a three-week lecture tour of Turkey. She traveled with three other professors: Dr. Willard Gilbert (Hopi) from Northern Arizona University, Valerian Three Irons (Three Affiliated Tribes) from South Dakota State University, and IAIA’s Stephen Fadden (Mohawk). The trip was sponsored by the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), which promotes Turkish culture and seeks to establish cultural relationships between the United States and Turkey.

Participants acted as ambassadors for their schools with 12 Turkish universities, speaking to students about contemporary issues facing Native Americans. They also presented at the “Native American Voices: Languages of Survival Conference” at Hacettepe University in the capital city of Ankara.

“Dispelling misconceptions and preconceptions of Turkey is the reason TCA promotes cultural connections, the same mission of IAIA and Native studies programs in regards to Native Americans, and something we found ourselves doing in Turkey,” says Lucero. “For many, Native people exist in a romanticized stasis with tipis, feathers, and horses based on images they had seen in the movie ‘Dances with Wolves.’” The people she met in Turkey had little idea that Native cultures were so diverse. She says they were also interested in the Native professors’ critique of the movie.

According to Lucero, Turkish and Native cultures share surface similarities including designs in pottery and weavings, architectural ruins that look like Puebloan cliff dwellings, a sense of Indian time–things happen when they do–and a strong sense of family and spirituality.

The four professors visited universities in Samsun, Bolu, Istanbul, and Ankara, and saw mosques, monuments, historical sites, and museums. Lucero says, “The trip was truly memorable, and in the end we on the tour were all ‘infected’ by the Turkish virus, as termed by Dr. Meldan Tanrisal of Hacettepe University: a desire to return.”

In May 2010, IAIA’s President, Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee Nation) and Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Director Patsy Phillips (Cherokee Nation) traveled to Turkey on a tour sponsored by the Turkish Cultural Foundation. The trip included 15 to 20 other college presidents and professors from across the nation.

Student Marcus Dunn (Tuscarora) traveled last summer to Roberts College in Istanbul to work as a summer counselor in an English-intensive summer program for youth. IAIA’s Center for Lifelong Education sponsored Dunn’s trip.

IAIA sculpture professor Dana Chodzko, who is on sabbatical to Europe, planned to take four IAIA advanced sculpture students to Ondokuz Mayis University in Samsun, Turkey, in September. There, Brian Fleetwood, Jamie Cross, Topaz Jones, and Sharon Vargas planned to pursue self-designed curriculum in cultural studies, art history and studio arts, and work under the direction of studio arts chair Sevgi Koyuncu. The Turkish Coalition provided each student a $500 scholarship, but the students held several fundraisers to raise the rest of their travel monies.

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