Traditions of Indians passed on

By Nancy Broten

The lifestyles and traditions of American Indians can provide a unique summer experience for students who take advantage of Indiana University’s American Indian Reservation Project.

The 17-year-old program sends students on a volunteer basis to Navajo and Apache Indian Reservations in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. There they can become as involved in Indian life as the Indians themselves.

Director James Mahan conducts the project, not as a missionary program to the Indians, but as a learning experience for the volunteers. Mahan speaks with Indians of various job situations on the reservations, asking them if they need or want workers. Volunteers then spend six to eight weeks working in the situation most interesting to them.

Steven Benjamin, American Indian Teaching Project Coordinator, said volunteers have a choice of about 30 or 40 very diverse job opportunities. “Some choose to live with a Navajo grandma and grandpa—herding sheep, chopping firewood and driving them around in a pick-up. Others choose more professional job settings which involve writing requests for grants and conducting workshops.”

Benjamin said, “The aim of the program is not to become missionaries to the Indians. … The volunteers will go to live in a very exciting lifestyle and roll up their sleeves to work.”

The program is generally aimed toward graduate students who have an interest in different cultures and professionals who are looking for an unusual summer experience, Benjamin said. Undergraduate students should not apply for this summer experience unless they have a very special interest in the subject or have declared themselves education majors, he said.

Participants are required to be involved in a preliminary program to acquaint themselves with Indian life. “Schooling” includes several preparatory and abstract readings as well as a day-long Saturday orientation session in Bloomington, Ill. in late May.

The summer program runs from June 8 through Aug.8. Volunteers’ expenses are paid by the program or are taken care of by the Indians themselves, who usually offer room and board to their helpers. However, participants are responsible for their own transportation and tuition.

For more information contact Dr.James M. Mahan at Education 321, Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind. 47405. His phone number is (812) 335-8570.