Skip to main content




Nov. 02, 2012
CONTACT: K. E. Schwab

SRU celebrates Native American diversity

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Abenacki Native American tribe author Joseph Bruchac, who has written more than 60 books about the indigenous American culture, including "Code Talker," will be among those participating in Slippery Rock University's "Native American Celebration Day" Nov. 12.

Events will be staged in the Smith Student Center Ballroom in conjunction with the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center based near Pittsburgh.

BRUCHAC Bruchac lives in the Adirondack mountain foothills in Greenfield Center, N.Y. In addition to his Native roots, he also traces his background to Slovak and English ancestors.

Members of his family and he work extensively to preserve the Abenaki culture, language and traditional Native skills, such as performing traditional and contemporary music.

He earned his bachelor of arts degree from Cornell University, his master of arts in literature and creative writing from Syracuse University and his doctorate in comparative literature from the Union Institute of Ohio. He has directed programs for Skidmore College inside a maximum-security prison. He and his late wife founded the Greenfield Review Literary Center and the Greenfield Review Press.

His award-winning works include "Songs from this Earth on Turtle's Back, Breaking Silence," which earned the American Book Award, and "Returning the Gift." His poems, articles and stories have appeared in more than 500 publications.

Bruchak has performed extensively, including at the British Storytelling Festival and the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tenn.

His awards include, American Book Award for "Breaking Silence"; Horn Book honor for "The Boy Who Lived with the Bears"; Scientific American Children's Book Award for "The Story of the Milky Way," along with the Cherokee Nation Prose Award, Hope S. Dean Award for Notable Achievement in Children's Literature, 2005 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, 2001 Parents Guide to Children's Media Award for "Skeleton Man" and a host of others.

SRU traditionally honors Native Americans each year with a program designed to exhibit their culture, customs, language, storytelling, dance and music.

This year's program opens at 9:30 a.m. with a welcome followed by Native American storytelling at 10 a.m., and traditional Native American Dances and Songs at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The Simms family, Native Americans from the Pittsburgh area, is expected to again participate. Russell Simms is director of the American Indian Center, and his wife, Maria, is actively involved with the center's work.

Glenn Utsch, an assistant professor of music at SRU, will present a performance of "Arthur Farwell's Music" at 2 p.m., and Frederick White, associate professor of English, will offer a Native American poetry reading as part of the performance.

Native American songs and dances will conclude the program at 3 p.m.

Participants have explained that some Native American songs are really just chants, with no real words, while others tell complex stories. Both examples will be presented as part of the activities.

The daylong presentation will also include dances choreographed for only men, or only women, or both sexes.

Rachella Permenter, professor of English, Pamela Soeder, professor of elementary education and early childhood, and White organized the celebration day.

Those attending will see regalia created by members of the Three Rivers Council and frequently worn at pow-wows.

The council holds monthly cultural days at which members work on their regalia, which often contains beads, hollowed out animal bones, animal skins and subdued colors. A number of hand fans, often made of feathers, will be used in the dances and displayed, White said.

Native American artifacts will be displayed and attendees will have an opportunity to talk with members of the Three Rives Council as part of the campus celebration.

The Three Rivers Council was created in 1969 to help regional residents with a need to maintain their sense of "Indian-ness" recapture their roots and become more conscious of their rights as Native Americans. The council operates from offices in Dorseyville, Indiana Township.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.