SEPTEMBER 18, 2008


NSU Features Native American Alumni at 37th Annual Symposium

To commemorate Northeastern State University’s history as a leading educational institution for American Indians, the theme of the upcoming 37th Annual Symposium on the American Indian will be Legacy: 1909- 2009.

Scheduled April 15-18, 2009, the event -- the only one of its kind nationwide -- is hosted by the NSU American Indian Heritage Committee with an advisory committee composed of American Indian alumni. Featured presenters will be chosen from among an impressive group of prospects who each have a unique connection to NSU, said Dr. Phyllis Fife, director of the NSU Center for Tribal Studies.

“Because we are celebrating the NSU centennial next year, we will ask graduates of NSU, past and present faculty, staff, and students, and distinguished guests who have contributed to the quality of education at NSU to share their knowledge as presenters,” Fife said.

The week's festivities will also include a pre-symposium film series featuring the work of American Indian filmmakers, actors and producers and the Annual NSU Alumni Powwow, hosted by the American Indian Alumni Association.

NSU remains first in American Indian graduates

The theme of the 2009 symposium is appropriate for the institution that annually confers degrees to more Native American undergraduates than any other public four-year institution in the United States.

NSU has consistently been ranked first nationwide for several years, and once again claimed the top position in a report published earlier this year by Diverse Issues in Higher Education. In the area of all disciplines combined, NSU listed 24 percent of undergraduates as Native Americans. Oklahoma’s oldest institution of higher learning, NSU also ranked first in the number of Native Americans who majored in both education and psychology, second in business majors, third in physical science majors, and fourth among Native Americans majoring in health professions and related clinical services.

The Center for Tribal Studies works with student groups such as AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) and other student organizations to insure student success, bridge communication between tribal nations and the University, and enrich the cultural heritage of NSU.

“Since the Center for Tribal Studies was founded in 1990, it has become one of the central resources on campus for supporting academic effectiveness, enhancing the quality of student experiences and initiating scholarly activities,” said Fife. “At NSU, learning is not bound by the walls of our classrooms. Since we are in the heart of the Cherokee Nation, we provide numerous cultural learning experiences for our students and create a cohesive community for our American Indian students.”

Shared history with the Cherokee Nation

As part of NSU’s celebration of 100 years as a state institution, the Annual Symposium on the American Indian has been listed as an official Centennial event. The Centennial Countdown began on Aug. 20, with a community picnic that included nearly 800 students and community members, and the official NSU Centennial Celebration begins on Founders Day, March 6, 2009. The kickoff event will be highlighted by the unveiling of the statue of Sequoyah (George Guess, creator of the Cherokee syllabary), designed by Cherokee artist and sculptor, Daniel HorseChief. The statue will be erected in front of Seminary Hall.

“With educational roots firmly planted by the Cherokee people in the 1840s, Northeastern is the continuing expression of a commitment to build a region and serve a people through education,” said NSU President Dr. Don Betz. “The annual Symposium on the American Indian is an appropriate opportunity for this institution to bring back to campus Native Americans who have achieved success here as students and will return to share thoughtful presentations that help shape attitudes and ideas about current issues. This will become an important part of our own Centennial legacy.”

NSU began as the Cherokee National Female Seminary, established in 1846 at Park Hill. When the original building burned in 1887, the Seminary was rebuilt on a 40-acre parcel of land north of Tahlequah. In 1909, the Oklahoma legislature purchased the facility that became Northeastern State Normal School and is today the state’s fourth largest public university and the oldest institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi River.

The Annual Symposium on the American Indian began in 1973 to recognize the institution’s historic roots and provide a forum for discussion of Native American issues.

Details about the 37th Annual Symposium on the American Indian will be available online later this semester at