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College Pow Wow a day of pride.

Byline: Karen McCowan The Register-Guard

Bells of a different sort jingled Saturday at Lane Community College, as hundreds of dancers marched, stomped and whirled at the Native American Student Association's annual Pow Wow.

Instead of holiday sleigh bells, the musical tinkling came from ornate tribal regalia worn by dancers of all ages.

Poised young Felicia Florendo of Ashland wore a skirt covered in tiny bells. How long has the 9-year-old been dancing?

"Since I was in my mommy's tummy," she said after a moment's thought.

The day was a celebration of tribes and traditions from as far away as Oklahoma - and of a dramatic expansion in programs for the local college's Native American population, estimated at more than 300 students.

The afternoon and evening of ceremonial and social dancing included recognition of linguist Janne Underriner, who will soon fill the college's first Endowed Chair of American Indian Languages.

The new position, funded by an anonymous donor, is the culmination of four years' work by LCC staff toward offering accredited classes in Native languages that would satisfy foreign language requirements when LCC students transfer to four-year universities.

Once Underriner comes on board in January, the college will work with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde to offer a four-hour course in Chinuk Wawa, a trade language used among native Northwest tribes.

LCC biology instructor Jerry Hall, who has begun learning the Tututen tongue of his Rogue River ancestors, is among faculty who have worked toward language classes. He said LCC hopes eventually to offer distance learning classes with elder speakers in remote locations teaching a variety of Native languages.

That's good news for Pow Wow attendees such as Destiny Summers, 9, of Klamath Falls. Her mother said Destiny already wants to attend a college where she can learn the Klamath, Wasco or Shasta tongues of her ancestors.

"She told us when she was 6 that she plans to major in Native American studies, and someday assist Congress or the president on Native issues," Ruth Summers said.

Language and cultural programs - such as LCC's annual Pow Wow - will encourage Native American students to complete their college degrees, said Brent Florendo, Felicia's father and a professor at Southern Oregon University.

"This prevents them from feeling homesick and disconnected," he said.

Sandin Riddle, 20, president of the LCC Native American Student Association, certainly found a connection in the group, which he happened upon as members sold frybread on campus one afternoon, he said.

"Before I got involved, I had a narrow focus on my classes; I just kept my head down," said Riddle, of Eugene. "This opened up my consciousness. It made school more fun. It added an aspect of life that wasn't there before."

Riddle said he plans to continue nurturing his Modoc-Paiute identity once he completes his associate's degree and transfers to the University of Oregon to study political science or public policy. Meanwhile, he takes pride in LCC's continued strides toward comprehensive services for American Indian students. The next step, he said, is construction of a Native American longhouse on campus.

"No other community college in the country has a longhouse," he said. "We will be the first. That's a pretty good compliment."

LCC already has raised more than $550,000 toward the planned $1 million longhouse, and the LCC board approved a construction start this spring. Contributions may be sent to Lane Foundation, Longhouse Fund, 4000 E. 30th Ave., Eugene, 97405. They also can be made online at foundation.


Kiowa Dougherty, 9, of Stayton, dances at Lane Community College's Pow Wow on Saturday. Chava Florendo of Ashland puts the finishing touches on sister Felicia's hair before the grand entry of the fall Pow Pow at Lane Community College on Saturday. Wayne Eastburn / The Register-Guard
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Title Annotation:Higher Education; The event celebrates LCC's new program for teaching Native American languages
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 4, 2005

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