University to host eighth annual Virginia Indian Nations Summit

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 21, 2008 – The eighth annual Virginia Indian Nations Summit on Higher Education will take place April 25 through April 27 at Virginia Tech's Skelton Conference Center.

The summit will open with a public keynote on Indigenous Perceptions of Democracy by Joseph Brings Plenty, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. This address is largely in response to last year’s Jamestown commemorative events that lauded that site as the birthplace of democracy in America. As the leader of one of the continent’s largest and most salient Indian nations, Brings Plenty’s address will also celebrate the integrity of Virginia’s Indian Nations as the sovereign stewards of this land. The keynote will begin at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 25.

Beginning in 2001, this gathering of representatives from Virginia’s Indian Nations, Virginia Tech faculty, students, and administrators has evolved to include delegates from other state institutions in forging a common vision of the relationship between Indian nations and the academy.

“It has proven vital in the development of Virginia Tech’s American Indian Studies program, whether through curriculum development or through creating linkages between faculty, students, and tribal communities,” said Sam Cook, coordinator for American Indian Studies.

The tribal advisory board that was created at the first summit now serves as the advisory committee for the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Virginia Indian Heritage Project, a multifaceted program intended to educate the public about Virginia’s indigenous peoples through interpretive programs, displays, and other media largely directed by Virginia Indians.

This year’s meeting, which will include a delegate from the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia, will focus on developing a more definite partnership between Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Indian Nations through the possible development of an American Indian Studies Institute. This will allow both students and tribal communities to draw on the strengths of both academic institutions, and will create greater academic conduits for the application of indigenous knowledge in various fields.

“As the interdisciplinary field of American Indian studies matures as an applied pursuit dedicated to fostering the goals of nation building among the continent’s numerous Indian nations, this gathering has become a central forum for diplomacy between Virginia’s Indian nations, state institutions, and individuals dedicated to bolstering the autonomy and quality of life of indigenous communities,” said Cook. “This mission becomes increasingly important as six of Virginia’s Indian tribes move closer to gaining federal recognition as sovereign Indian nations.”

This event is sponsored by The Virginia Tech Office of the Provost, American Indian Studies Program, Humanities Program of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, the University of Virginia Office of the Provost, and the Virginia Council on Indians.

For more information, contact Cook at (540) 231-9596. E-mail inquiries will bring the fastest response.