American Indian Awareness Week begins March 31

An American Indian Pow Wow, a traditional food tasting and a discussion on the therapeutic benefits of tribal ceremonies are among the highlights of American Indian Awareness Week March 31-April 5. All events are free and open to the public.

The annual awareness week and Pow Wow, hosted by the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, allow American Indian students to share their unique cultures with the campus and the St. Louis community.

On Monday, March 31, Mi’kmaq Elder and St. Louis Native community member Alice Azure will present a selection of her poetry at 11 a.m. in Goldfarb Hall Commons.

Filmmaker Patty Loew will screen her movie, “The Way of the Warrior,” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, in Brown Hall Lounge. This documentary explores why, in the 20th century, so many American Indians joined the U.S. military in percentages greater than any other group. The film uses personal stories of heroes and soldiers to examine the warrior ethic in Indian Country and attempt to answer the question why military service is so highly valued in Native communities.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, Harold Barse, member of the the Office of Veterans Affairs for the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes of Oklahoma, will speak about using tribal ceremonies as treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Barse is a veteran of the Vietnam War and a recognized expert on veteran’s issues.

“For many American Indian and Alaska Natives, traditional health practices attend to the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs of a person while the medical approach tends to focus solely on the physical,” said Amy Locklear Hertel, J.D., research manager at the Buder Center. “It is not surprising that many Native people turn to traditional health practices for treatment of their ailments. This promises to be a powerful lecture for both the social sciences and medical sciences alike as Barse will discuss how tribal ceremonies have been used to treat veterans suffering from PTSD.”

At 11 a.m. April 3, Buder Center students and staff will offer a sampling of American Indian foods in the Lopata Courtyard and the Goldfarb Student Commons.

Tom Holm, Ph.D., professor of political science at the University of Arizona, will speak about “Strong Hearts: Native Service and Leadership” at 1 p.m. April 4 in Brown Hall Lounge.

The celebration culminates April 5 in the Field House with the 18th annual Pow Wow, a festival of American Indian dancing, singing, drumming, arts, crafts and food. This year’s theme is “Honoring Our Native Veterans and All Those Who Serve.”

Intertribal and contest dancing take place at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Traditional arts and crafts booths open at 10 a.m.

This year’s theme of honoring veterans and military service members marks the School of Social Work’s increasing collaborations with the St. Louis Vet Center, St. Louis Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, St. Louis VA Regional Office, the Missouri National Guard and various Veterans Service Organizations.

“As Brown School faculty with a joint appointment at the St. Louis VA Medical Center, I’m excited at the opportunity to offer informational booths at the Pow Wow to various organizations that serve veterans,” said Monica Matthieu, Ph.D., research assistant professor. “The Pow Wow co-chairs and Buder Center staff have been instrumental in helping me get the word out among veterans and military families by visiting the VA Medical Center, the VA Regional Office and distributing posters to the military public affairs offices. I’m proud to help honor veterans and the military as well as to celebrate the long tradition of service among the American Indian veterans.”

Raven Murray, Pow Wow co-chair and second-year social work student, said that young Native American leaders are providing the St. Louis area with a unique and culturally appropriate celebration.

“This year’s Pow Wow holds a deeper meaning for many of us because we chose to honor our veterans,” Murray said. “It is important that we show our appreciation to each person who has served our country. In addition to attending, people can donate items that will be shipped to troops overseas.

“We hope that those who attend come with open hearts, respect for our culture, and leave a little more educated on Native Americans,” Murray said.

The American Indian Awareness Week and Pow Wow are sponsored by the Buder Center, the American Indian Student Association, the Women’s Society and several departments as well as area businesses and organizations.

For more information, call 935-4510 or visit