“Speak from Your Heart”

Nov 15th, 2009 | By | Category: 21-2: K-12 Education, Winter 2009, Tribal College News

By LaVinia Pauline Snowball


FUTURE LEADERS. Some of the students participating in the institute paused from their work for a group photo. Pictured from left: Lynda Morrison (Leech Lake Tribal College); AIHEC Student Congress Advisor Cindy Dodd (Northwest Indian College-NWIC), Blue Tarpalechee (Institute of American Indian Arts-IAIA), Kylie Roanhorse (IAIA), Sean Soukkala (Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College), Allison Steinmeyer (Comanche Nation College), Regina Wilson-Johnny (NWIC), LaVinia Snowball (Little Priest Tribal College), Nathan Dunn (United Tribes Technical College), and Advisor Carmen Henan (IAIA).

Thirty-five students from 12 tribal colleges and universities attended the annual Summer Student Leadership Training July 8-10, 2009, in Santa Fe, NM. It was presented by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) Student Congress at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Center for Lifelong Education and funded by a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation to the American Indian College Fund.

To start things off, Rick Williams, president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, spoke about Indigenous Models of Leadership. According to Williams, a very important rule of any group is communication and connecting with each other. In the evaluations submitted after the training, one student wrote, “The words of Rick Williams made me motivated and reminded me to not give up in life!”

Diane Reyna, director of the IAIA Learning Support Center, taught us icebreaking techniques and strategies—such as, “If you knew me better, you would know that…” We all got to know more about one another and became more comfortable in our groups. Students afterward commented on Reyna’s positive energy; one wrote: “She was awesome!”

Rose Simpson, a former IAIA student, spoke of her passion for art. “Speak from your heart, and the people listening will feel that energy with you,” she said.

During the break-out sessions, Diné College President Dr. Ferlin Clark discussed college protocol processes and procedures and why they are important to maintain order and control. David Cournoyer, director of Resources and Program Development for Native Americans in Philanthropy, gave the keynote address. We extend a special thanks to all the speakers.

During the evenings, students had several outings to tour Santa Fe. Two highlights were The Plateros Blues Band and the Jemez Pueblo Native American Youth Empowerment. Three male dancers and three female dancers performed the Buffalo Dance, which was very intriguing to watch as the story of the buffalo unfolded. Many of the students had not been exposed to Pueblo culture, songs, and dance before. The youngest dancer couldn’t have been more than three years old, and he knew every start, step, and stop of the song.


ALL TIED UP. Desirea Lisa Vecenti and Georgeett Cook work together to undo strings in a communication and team building session while Delia Wauneka looks on. Vecenti is the student body president at Diné College. Cook and Wauneka are senators at Diné College. Photo by Allison Steinmeyer

We also traveled near Los Alamos, NM, to Bandelier National Monument where we walked the trails of the traditional Pueblo dwellings. The dwellings are still a very spiritual place for the Pueblo people. One student said of the experience, “This was fun, and it gave me the opportunity to bond with some of the other students.”

The officers of the 2009 AIHEC Student Congress are: Allison Steinmeyer, president; Sean Soukkala, vice president; Desirea LaMotte, secretary; Blue Tarpalechee, treasurer; LaVinia Snowball, historian; Kylie Roanhorse, sergeant-atarms; and regional representatives: Nathan Dunn, Lynda Morrison, and Regina Jonny.

The AIHEC Student Congress only has four physical meetings, and this was our first one. We have to make the most of our time when together. Our main concern is to get every college involved. All tribal colleges will be receiving a quarterly newsletter in the near future; we hope that may help with getting information and updates to members and receiving feedback.

This was the second student leadership training at IAIA in recent years. In the 1990s, IAIA hosted three student leadership trainings funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, according to Carmen Henan, Student Congress advisor.

Our organization has a MySpace profile; search for AIHEC Student Congress.

 LaVinia Pauline Snowball (Winnebago) is the historian of the AIHEC Student Congress.

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