Anderson University's International Student Association recently hosted Native American Cultural Conversations, a forum highlighting Native American history and culture. The event featured guest speaker Sam E. Johnson, a teacher at Anderson High School.
Johnson is part Cherokee, as well as German and Irish. He spent the last five years teaching autistic students in Anderson schools, with the last two years at Anderson High School. He is currently part of the American Indian Council (AIC) of the Church of God and previously served as first chief of the AIC.
At the forum, Johnson discussed the similarities and differences between Native Americans and the Europeans who immigrated to America, and how Europeans influenced Native American culture and views toward Christianity.
Johnson also discussed the issue of younger generations not embracing their Native American background. “There are a lot of native people who are in doubt about their past," Johnson said. “Our job is to reach the younger people and tell them it is okay to embrace their culture."
Johnson seeks to encourage young people to learn about their ancestors and the struggles they went through. By learning the history, they can be comfortable with who they are and where they come from.
Johnson takes teams to various Native American reservations across the United States during the summer as a way of reaching out to some of the poorest communities in the country. The teams do a variety of projects on these trips, ranging from manual labor, such as fixing roofs or buildings, to just talking and connecting to the people who live on the reservations. Johnson works with eight reservations in Washington, Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Arizona.
Anderson University also offers opportunities each year through Tri-S for students to visit a Native American reservation. Those who participate are immersed in the Native American community and discover more about their traditions, customs, and values. Two trips have been scheduled for the current year: the first will be to Oklahoma during winter break and the second will be to South Dakota during spring break.
The Native American forum was hosted by the International Student Association at Anderson University. Each month, ISA highlights a different culture to help AU students learn more about its customs, history, and the role it plays in the world today.
— Alyssa Applegate is a junior from Dayton, Ohio, majoring in communication arts and minoring in Spanish. Applegate is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.