Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Appalachian, American Indian Students Bridge Cultural Divide

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Appalachian, American Indian Students Bridge Cultural Divide

Article excerpt

CUMBERLAND, Ky. -- Kristen Foley, a fourth-generation resident in Harlan County, is separated by 1,253 miles from some new friends -- Sioux Indians living on the Rosebud Reservation in Mission, S.D.

Through a course offered jointly at Southeast Community College here and at Sinte Gleska University on the reservation, Foley and other Appalachian students are learning about the Sioux and at the same time gaining a new way to look at themselves.

Foley is one of 16 students taking the course. They and 10 Lakota, or Sioux, students at the South Dakota school are corresponding by e-mail, reading literature from each other's culture and sharing essays on common themes.

The students, from two of the poorest parts of the country, have discovered that they also share a respect for family history, a reverence for their traditional cultures and a closeness to nature and their land.

The class, offered this fall for the first time, teams a Native American history course at Sinte with sociology and English classes at Southeast. It's believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

Offering minorities the chance to see themselves through the lens of another culture is not new. Nor is it the first collaboration between Appalachians and American Indians.

Roadside Theater, a traveling performance group based in Whitesburg, Ky., has worked for 15 years with the Zuni Indians of New Mexico. The collaboration led to a touring production called "Corn Mountain, Pine Mountain," which featured traditional Zuni and Appalachian dance, music and storytelling.

"If you learn something about another culture," says Roadside manager Donna Porterfield, "it takes you deeper into your own culture."

The new project is unique, however, in that it encourages students to deal directly with each other on issues of land, economics and culture. …

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