By Leah Kulikowski & Alicia Stanek
This Friday, Sept. 30, the Upper Peninsula Indian Education Conference will be held in the Great Lakes Rooms of the University Center. This is a free, all-day event featuring information on American Indian culture, behavior health and mental health.
Previously focused for educators teaching American Indian students, this year UPIEC is expanding and hoping to bring presenters that reach a larger audience including the community and NMU students.
UPIEC has partnered with the Sault Tribe Alive Youth project, which was founded to help face the problem of youth suicide in American Indian tribes.
The STAY Project will have several breakout sessions where they will host suicide prevention training during the conference.
“The focus of this year’s program is on life-skills’ development and suicide prevention,” said April Lindala, the director of NMU’s center of Native American Studies. “With such a focus, we believe the conference is open to a much broader audience. The Center for Native American Studies would be delighted to have NMU students attend this event.”
One of the key presenters is Dr. Teresa LaFromboise, author of “American Indian Life-Skills Development Curriculum.” She focuses much of her research on minorities in American society and life skills for the minorities in a society where acculturation threatens their unique culture.
“I am looking forward to the keynote presentation by Dr. Teresa LaFromboise, professor from Stanford University,” Lindala said. “Being within a college campus community affords us with the chance to learn from people from all over the world.”
LaFromboise directs a significant portion of her research to Native Americans and confronting the problem of youth suicide by developing techniques that help prevent suicide and build self-confidence.
There will also be special announcements given by Grace Chaillier and Dr. Martin Reinhardt, both professors at NMU within the Native American Studies department.
UPIEC is working with NMU Center for Native American Studies and school of education, Gear up/College Day, King Chavez Parks Initiative, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and Sault Tribe of Chippewa STAY project.
The goal of UPIEC is to expand audience awareness of problems within the American Indian tribes and provide useful ways for people to understand and possibly provide aid in those situations. A main focus of the conference will be on suicide prevention.
“I always advise students that you have a special place in the world,” Lindala said. “This is the perfect time to gain skills to be an agent of change and to become a productive global citizen.”
For those students interested in learning more about American Indian tribes in present day, the registration date for UPIEC has been extended.
The registration for this event can be found at www.nmu.edu/nativeamericans. Fill out the form and bring it to the Center for Native America Studies on campus or email the completed form to [email protected] by noon, Sept. 27th.
All registered attendees will receive free meals provided by UPIEC. Those who cannot register by the deadline are welcome to register the morning of the conference at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 30. Meals may not be provided for later registered attendees.
Dr. Teresa LaFromboise, this year’s keynote speaker for the Indian Education Conference, will be speaking directly on suicide prevention.
LaFromboise is the director of Native American studies and a professor of education at Stanford University. She is concerned with helping ethnic minority students survive pressure from cultural adjustment, discrimination, major life transitions and other stresses that are usually found in children and adolescents.
She developed the American Indian Life Skills Development Curriculum as a course for high school students and some middle school students, designed to reduce suicidal thinking and behavior. She is also investigating cultural, social and psychological indicators of adolescent risk behavior.
Betsy Trudeau, a sophomore media production major at NMU and the president of NMU’s Native American Student Association said she wants to go to the conference this year because she feels that the focus point of suicide prevention will be beneficial for her because there was never enough education on the topic.
“I’m excited for it to happen,” Trudeau said. “It’s getting better and I’m proud of the people who organize it. Indian education is very important because a lot of people don’t know about it.”
Trudeau said she remembers going to the conference with her brother in middle school.
“When I was younger I didn’t realize it was a good learning experience, so when I go back now that I’m older I will pay more attention because it relates to more things I understand in my life,” Trudeau said.
LaFromboise will be speaking with the help of The Sault Tribe Alive Youth group called STAY, who will be conducting a QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training session.
The purpose of the STAY Project is to develop and implement a tribal youth suicide and early intervention plan for the eastern and central Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
“It’s to help our youth stay alive,” Trudeau said.
QPR was created to allow qualified candidates to teach and increase the number of people trained to act in a bold, positive manner to prevent a suicide.
Amanda Weinert, a junior art history major and the vice president of NMU’s Native American Student Association, said she was glad to hear that suicide prevention was the main topic for this year’s conference because people need to know about it and suicide rates in the Indian community are much higher than most.
“I think it’s going to be better in a sense because suicide is such a big problem in the Indian community,” Weinert said.
In past years, the conference has generally been directed towards K-12 educators who work with American Indian students and/or American Indian content. There has been no specific focus in the past conferences.
Past year speakers at the Indian Education Conference have ranged from award winning musicians to motivational speakers, members of leadership programs and much more.
This year, the audience for the conference has been expanded to include behavior health and mental health professionals.
The 15th annual Upper Peninsula Indian Education Conference will be held on Friday, Sept. 30 in the Great Lakes Room of the University Center and free for all who register in advance. It is an all-day event and lunch is included for all registrants.
For more information on UPIEC, contact April Lindala at 906-227-1397 or email [email protected] For more information on the Native American Student Association and the STAY Project contact the Center for Native American Studies in Whitman Hall at (906) 227-1397.