CWC series explores Native American identity

JACKSON, WY— What does it mean to be a citizen of an American Indian tribe and the history behind it? What does Blood Quantum mean to tribal citizens of the Wind River Reservation? What does access to education look like for Native Americans? And, what does it mean to non-native people to live on formerly native land, surrounded by history?

These are all questions CWC’s “Nations Within a Nation” series will explore. Beginning October 17, there will be a series of three panel discussions brought to you by Central Wyoming College, ThinkWY/ Humanities, and the Teton County Library. A diverse panel of experts—both Native and non-native—engage in an open public discussion about Native American identity, history, and tribal citizenship.

CWC’s relationship with Wyoming’s Native communities is unique, said CWC President Dr. Brad Tyndall, and it is only appropriate that CWC would host a tribal series here in Jackson. “There’s so much history in the Jackson Hole region as Ivan Posey, our Tribal Education Coordinator often reminds me,” Tyndall said. “This is Eastern Shoshone territory.”

CWC’s relationships with Wind River tribes—Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone—is extremely important to the college. “These series were first implemented on the Riverton campus in spring 2018, and we want to share them with Teton County residents,” Tyndall said. “It is important that all of us understand the history of the land on which we live. CWC has had the benefit of having truthful, authentic conversations with Wind River Reservation tribal members.” Tyndall said. “This series has allowed tribal voices to convey their stories to a broader audience.”

The first talk, “Tribal Identity and Blood Quantum: Tribal Citizenship,” asks a seemingly precise but actually quite complicated question: what makes an American Indian a citizen?

It’s not as straightforward as an outsider might assume, said CWC president Dr. Brad Tyndall.

“The process of tribal identity is very eye-opening and complex,” Tyndall said.

Different tribes across the country have different criteria for actually belonging to that tribe, Tyndall explained. Often, tribal identity is determined by blood quantum—literally the amount of tribal blood in someone’s genealogy.

It also raises larger questions about American identity at large, Tyndall said. While the talk will focus specifically on Native American tribal identity, it will be hard not to wonder about the larger implications. Especially in a climate that feels so divisive, Tyndall said, conversations about identity are far-reaching.

“Most of us know that if you’re born in America, you’re an American,” Tyndall said. “But what does it mean to be an American? That word is loaded.”

Be a part of the conversation. The first panel discussion begins Wednesday, October 17 at 6 p.m, with a reception at 5:30 p.m. CWC’s Vice President for Administrative Services and Former Vice Chairman of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe Willie Noseep will moderate the discussion. Panelists are John Washakie, Former Shoshone Chairman and Tribal Elder; Ivan Posey, CWC Tribal Education Coordinator; and Willard Gould, Arapaho Language Commission and Former Arapaho Tribe Council member.

The series continues with two additional panel discussions. See the full schedule below:

Tribal Identity and Blood Quantum: Tribal Citizenship
What makes you Native American?

Wednesday, October 17th
5:30 p.m. Reception, 6 p.m. Talk/Discussion, followed by Q&A.

Presenters: John Washakie, Former Shoshone Chairman and Tribal Elder; Ivan Posey, CWC Tribal Education Coordinator; Willard Gould, Arapaho Language Commission and Former Arapaho Tribe Council member; Willie Noseep, Former Vice Chairman of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and CWC Vice President.

Education on the Wind River Reservation: Past and Present
Cultural and Equitable challenges for Native Americans in Education

Monday, October 29th
5:30 p.m. Reception, 6 p.m. Talk/Discussion, followed by Q&A.

Presenters: Scotty Ratliff, author and Aide to US Senator Mike Enzi; Willie LeClair, member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe; Jacoby Hereford, Jr. and Sierra Ferris, current CWC Students; Willie Noseep, Former Vice Chairman of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and CWC Vice President.

Water Environmental Issues on the Wind River Reservation
The Role of the Wind River Tribal Community dealing with the changing environmental resources of Wyoming

Wednesday, November 14th
5:30 p.m. Reception, 6 p.m. Talk/Discussion, followed by Q&A.

Presenters: Mitch Cottenoir, Tribal Water Engineer; Preston Smith, Range Conservationist, Bureau of Indian Affairs; Gabe Spoonhunter; Jacki Klancher, CWC Professor of Environmental Health; Tarissa Spoonhunter, CWC Professor of American Indian studies and member of the Blackfeet Indian tribe.

This series is offered by Central Wyoming College’s Institute of Tribal Learning, theThinkWY/Wyoming Humanities and Teton County Library. Funded in part by the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole and the Alan J. Hirschfield Family Foundation.


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Community Partner:

Central Wyoming College

Central Wyoming College is a two-year college serving Fremont, Hot Springs and Teton Counties Our main campus is located in Riverton Wyoming and we have outreach centers in Lander, Jackson and Dubois, each designed

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