Holmes Program Grows Pool of Minority Teachers

Ian Stygar, Sayantani Nandy and Faith Kioko present on their year in the Holmes Master’s Program at Eastern’s annual luncheon.

School districts across the nation continue to face a lack of minority teachers. Eastern Connecticut State University’s participation in the Holmes Master’s Program seeks to alleviate this problem. On June 28, Eastern celebrated three aspiring teachers from underrepresented backgrounds who will soon enter the teaching profession. Faith Kioko (Ashford), Ian Stygar (Lebanon) and Sayantani Nandy (Ellington) were honored at the annual Holmes Master’s Luncheon, hosted by the School of Education & Professional Studies and Graduate Division.

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) Holmes Program supports students from historically underrepresented groups who are pursuing careers in education. Eastern continued its partnership with Holmes, hosting its third cohort of Master’s students this year.

The Holmes Master’s students (podium) hosted a panel on educational leadership on April 4.

The 2019 cohort of full-time graduate students had a busy year in pursuit of teacher certification. In addition, they designed research proposals, worked in Eastern’s Center for Early Childhood Education, presented to classes and hosted forums on campus. They interviewed alumni teachers and gathered data for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). They also attended the AACTE’s annual Washington Week and advocated on educational policy.

“I believe all children are unique and must have a stimulating educational environment where they can grow and meet their full potential,” said Kioko, a candidate for teacher certification in early childhood education. “The Holmes Program helped me to pursue my career and has enriched me with professional training and mentorship.”

As part of her Holmes activities, Kioko wrote a research proposal titled “Dismantling Systemic Racism.” The project looked at the effects of race on access to opportunities; implicit bias and its influence on educational policy; and the disproportionate suspension rates for African American students.

Sayantani Nandy presents at Eastern’s CREATE conference on the university’s Education Preparation Program (EPP), which is in the process of being re-accredited by CAEP — the Council of Accreditation for Education Programs.

“To support our students’ social and emotional well-being, we must acknowledge and confront the legacy of racism and exclusion in our schools and communities,” said Kioko. As a teacher, she hopes to empower students, inspire lifelong learning and involve parents in the process.

A candidate for teacher certification in elementary education, Stygar looks forward to impacting the lives of young people from impoverished communities. “I specifically want to work with students from low-income areas because they are often the students who receive the least support,” he said. “Teaching allows me to work closely with students and hopefully help them understand the importance of being a lifelong learner as well as the importance of being a good person regardless of race or gender.”

Much of Stygar’s time in the program was spent interviewing undergraduate teacher candidates at Eastern. “This allowed me to see how the career of teaching is viewed from the perspective of freshman and sophomore students,” he said, noting that the teaching profession is not attracting enough males.

Eventually Stygar would like to move into administration, ultimately becoming a school principal. “It’s a dream of mine to develop a program that recruits males into the elementary education profession, as well as spread awareness of the importance of males in primary grades.”

Nandy has wanted to be a teacher ever since kindergarten. “I would come home and play ‘teacher,'” she said. “My English teacher in elementary school was a great motivator; I wanted to be someone like her.”

A candidate for teacher certification in early childhood education, Nandy originally wanted to teach at the post-secondary level. The birth of her son and the experience of substitute teaching younger children convinced her to shift focus to early childhood education.

Nandy would eventually like to further her studies in the areas of experiential learning and inclusive education. “Digging deep in the field would help me integrate my learnings into my teachings, and address the learning needs of my students,” she said.

The Holmes Program at Eastern is coordinated by Education Professor Tanya Moorehead, a Holmes Scholar herself. “Hosting the Holmes Program fits with the mission and vision of Eastern,” she said in a previous press release. “The education field as a whole is predominately white female, particularly in elementary school. This gives us a way to recruit and develop different faces and backgrounds in the teaching world, because the faces that we’re teaching aren’t always represented by the faces that are teaching them.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Windham NAACP Recognizes Dwight Bachman

Left to right: Sociology Professor Dennis Canterbury and wife Sandra, Mathematics Professor Bonsu Osei, Dwight Bachman, Communications Professor Christopher Ayeni, Accounting Professor Candice Deal and Stacey Close, Associate Provost and Vice President for Equity and Diversity
Left to right: Salim Bachman, Dwight Bachman, Bonsu Osei, Dennis Canterbury, Sandra Canterbury, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and Stacey Close, Associate Provost and Vice President for Equity and Diversity
Theatre Professor Kristen Morgan and Dwight Bachman
Keynote Speaker Lottie Scott

 

On June 1, the Windham/Willimantic Branch of the NAACP presented Dwight Bachman, public relations officer at Eastern Connecticut State University, its President’s Award. The award ceremony took place during the NAACP’s Second Annual Freedom Fund Dinner, held at the Lakeview Restaurant in Coventry.

The award is given “to an individual whose outstanding participation and contributions provide essential support to the President and hence to the Windham\Willimantic branch’s growth and success.”

The NAACP’s mission is to secure the political, education, social and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all human beings.

Dwight Bachman and Leah Ralls

“Mr. Bachman has shared his knowledge of African American history with me often, and that knowledge has assisted me with developing programs for the branch,” said NAACP President Leah Ralls in presenting the award. “As his guest at a Hartford Foundation for Public Giving event, I learned much about generating support for organizations such as the NAACP though donations. When I served as keynote speaker at the Putnam, CT, Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast this year, a video that Mr. Bachman researched, wrote and produced back in 1983 on Dr. King that aired on television stations around the world fit perfectly into my presentation.”

Lottie B. Scott, author of the book “Deep South, Deep North” and a member of the state’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities for more than 22 years, delivered the keynote address. “Be a champion for change. Pay back what has been given to you. My mother taught me to not talk about anybody’s child. Help improve opportunities for young people,” Scott said at the event. “Give the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you.”

Bachman was also named one of the Connecticut NAACP’ s “2018 100 Most Influential Blacks in Connecticut; received the 2018 James Ralston/David G. Carter Sr. Youth Education Innovator Award from the Prince Hall Masons of Connecticut; was honored with the 2018 Distinguished Reverend Collin Bennett/Marcus Garvey Award by St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Hartford; and was the recipient of a 2016 Quarter Century Award by the National Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

In 2007, Eastern presented Bachman the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award, and in 2001, the Connecticut Library Association presented him its News Media Award.

Prior to being hired at Eastern in 1990, Bachman served as a “Black Scholar in Residence” at Wartburg Theological Seminary; was director of the Commission on Human Rights in Dubuque, IA; was an editor at Howard University; and served as an editor and news producer at radio and television news stations in Washington D.C., Baltimore, New York City, Stamford and West Hartford.

Bachman earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Rhetoric at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, IA, and his Master of Professional Studies in African and African American Studies at Cornell University.

Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

On May 9, Eastern recognized more than 100 students with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional 11 students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement at the University’s Seventh Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony. The ceremony recognized the achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said the ceremony was not just about inclusion, but also spoke to the University’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, engagement and empowerment. “It is important for each of you to stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you are capable of. Never, ever, ever let anyone attempt to diminish your worth or your talents.

“Today’s honorees join thousands of other successful Eastern alumni who are making their own personal contributions out in the real world, including our guest speaker today, Dr. Kawami Evans. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  Thank you for being part of this celebration; to our honorees, congratulations.  We are very proud of you.”

Keynote speaker Evans ’97 serves as associate director at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success at the University of California at Davis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science at Eastern, her Master of Education in educational policy and research administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from Drexel University.

Evans encouraged the students to use their curiosity and optimism to persevere through unseen psychological struggles that can become their staunchest challenges. She said many high- achieving students fall prey to chasing individual achievements, accolades or material gain as their goal, even confusing their self-worth with what they can accomplish.

“This is dangerous; it can lead to anxiety and depression. Don’t let this be your reality or focus,” said Evans. “Who you are is what we are celebrating today. All the earned accolades you are receiving are but a byproduct of the brilliance within you . . . You are the promise of our ancestors’ prayers and walk with the wisdom and swag of those who have grit, resilience, the social and emotional intelligence, curiosity and hope.”

Evans told the students the most important element they need to resurrect in discussing their future success is their spirituality, ways in which students discover their destiny — answers to the big questions of who they are, what is their life purpose and how do they make difference in the world.

“Much of the world right now is relegated to systems and polices. We have to raise the bar with our vision of what’s possible,” Evans said. “It will take hard work, community, love, bravery, unrelentless effort and celebration.  I sincerely believe that we can create a world that works for all.”

A total of 280 students qualified for an Academic Excellence Award with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, and more than 100 of them were able to attend the May 9 event. During the ceremony, several students received service awards. Adrianna Arocho and Mayra Santos Acosta was presented the Volunteer Service Award; Aiyana Ward, the Athletic Excellence Award; Kimberly Allen and Sommer Bachelor, the Career Development Award; Jenilee Antonetty, the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award; Rafael Aragon, the Residential Community Leadership Award; Tristan Perez, the Social Justice Advocacy Award; Emma Costa, the Inspirational Leadership Award; Ishah Azeez, the Resilient Warrior Award; Kimberly Allen and Vishal Jungiwalla, the Advisor’s Choice Award; and the Freedom at Eastern Club, the Building Bridges Award.

By Dwight Bachman

Eastern Graduates 1,250 Students at XL Center

Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba

Hartford, CT — Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, told the 1,259 graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement to “Allow yourself the faith to ‘dream ahead’ as you embrace the next chapter in your journey.” Noting that college graduates have greater job security, live longer and have greater social mobility, Malerba told the graduates that they had made “a smart decision” in pursuing their educational dreams.

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 21, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,175 undergraduates and 84 graduate students received their diplomas.

Malerba told the graduates “Your education has just begun, as you have ‘birthed’ a career that will only grow and mature over time.” She also reminded graduates to set aside time for the “keepers of your heart” — family and friends who share life’s challenges. “When you meet others on the path of life, offer a kind word, encourage someone, comfort someone, and celebrate someone’s joy.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. 

Malerba was appointed the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe in August 2010, becoming the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. She previously was chair of the tribal council and executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her leadership roles in the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice from Yale University and her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut.

In addition to a distinguished career as a registered nurse and her leadership positions with the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba is also a national advocate of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She serves in a number of national roles, including positions with the Federal Indian Health Services; the U.S. Department of Justice; and the National Institutes of Health.

Other speakers at the Commencement exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Merle Harris, vice-chair of the

President Elsa Núñez

Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. Additional members of the platform party included Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Father Laurence LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

“The most important lesson I hope you have learned at Eastern is the knowledge that our great American democracy is only great because of the involvement and participation of our citizens,” said Núñez. “Being a citizen means debating the issues with your friends and in public forums — wherever you get a chance to voice your opinion. Most importantly, be willing to say no to whatever doesn’t feel right.

“You have learned how to think critically on our campus. You have learned how to ask questions, conduct research and analyze the results.  Do this in your workplace, in your community, and as a citizen of our great country.  I know you can do it . . . and I am counting on you to do so.  We need your enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge more than ever.”

More than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 160 of the state’s 169 towns, with approximately 85 percent of graduates staying in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Michael Theriault (right)

Senior Class President Michael Theriault presented the Senior Class Gift to President Núñez — an annual Class of 2019 scholarship — and thanked his classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. He recalled registering for classes in the early morning hours, “trying to stay silent on the third floor of the library” and Thursday night pancakes. Looking to the future, Theriault said the arena floor was a sea of graduation caps, but “While they may look the same from the outside, the reality is that we all will wear different hats. Some of us will go on to be future educators and make differences in the lives of students. Others will become journalists, historians, psychologists, broadcasters and so much more. No matter what hat you will wear, we will all be Eastern Warriors now and forever.”

In speaking on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, Vice-Chair Merle Harris reminded the audience that “commencement” means “beginning.” She told the graduates they “have gained the skills needed to make wise decisions. . .” and were ready to “make your community, our state, and our nation a better place. I am gratified that I can greet you tonight as you begin the next phase of your life’s journey.”

CSCU President Ojakian also offered remarks. Pointing to the “transformational academic journey you have just completed,” he called the graduates “change agents for the future and the next generation of leaders.” Ojakian went on to say, “Connecticut needs bright, talented individuals to stay here, fill the jobs of the 21st century, purchase homes, and raise their families here in the state. Connecticut needs your creativity, your entrepreneurial spirit and your ingenuity. You are the future of Connecticut — and because of that, Connecticut’s future is bright.”

From the colorful Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the piercing sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year’s graduation ceremonies reflected Eastern’s longstanding Commencement traditions.

University Senate President Andrew Utterback presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Andrew Hofmann, Tiara Lussier, Austin Stone, Ryan Michaud and Sara Ann Vega sang “America the Beautiful”; senior Shawn Ray Dousis gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Dickson Cunningham was recognized as the 2019 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Written by Ed Osborn

Mohegan Tribal Chief Named Eastern’s Commencement Speaker

 Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, will be the Commencement Speaker at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement Exercises on May 21 at the XL Center in Hartford. Malerba will also receive an honorary doctorate degree at the ceremonies.

Malerba has achieved an exemplary career in the health care and tribal governance fields. Not only has she served her community with distinction, she has brought national recognition to the State of Connecticut.

Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba became the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe on August 15, 2010, and is the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. The position is a lifetime appointment made by the tribe’s council of elders. She previously served as chairwoman of the tribal council and was also executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her work for the Mohegan Tribe, Chief Malerba had a distinguished career as a registered nurse and served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Yale University and was named a Jonas Scholar. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut, and has an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford.

Chief Malerba has achieved a national reputation as an advocate and supporter of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She is chairwoman of the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee of the Federal Indian Health Services; is a member of the U.S. Justice Department’s Tribal Nations Leadership Council; serves on the Tribal Advisory Committee for the National Institute of Health; is a member of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Tribal Advisory Committee; and serves as a technical expert on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She also serves as the United South and Eastern Tribes board of directors secretary, and is a member of the board of directors for the Ms. Foundation for Women.

In Connecticut, Chief Malerba serves as a trustee for Chelsea Groton Bank, as a board member for the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, as an advisory committee member for the Harvard University Native American Program and served on the board of directors for Lawrence Memorial Hospital for 11 years.

More than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students will receive their diplomas at Eastern’s graduation exercises on May 21, with an audience of more than 10,000 family and friends expected. In addition to Malerba, dignitaries expected to attend include Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System; and Merle Harris, vice-chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Presents Annual Dr. MLK Jr. Awards

Leah Ralls (left), president of the NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch; Isabel Logan (middle, front), assistant professor of social work; and political science major Morgane Russell ’19 (right) received MLK awards at Eastern’s annual ceremony. Keith Beauchamp (middle, back), a documentary producer, delivered the keynote address.

Political Science major Morgane Russell ’19; Isabel Logan, assistant professor of social work; and Leah Ralls, president of the NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch, received Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards at Eastern Connecticut State University’s annual award reception on Feb. 27.

In her sophomore and junior years, Russell was president of the Black Student Union, a role in which she saw that she needed to gain more knowledge of policies affecting minority populations. As a result, she changed her major from Business Administration to Political Science. Russell is currently the president of the campus NAACP chapter and an intern in the Connecticut General Assembly. As she gains first-hand experience in the legislative process, she is learning more about public policy. She aspires to serve as a legislative representative while gaining insight into issues affecting marginalized communities around her.

“Morgane is a team player who carries out all of her duties professionally and with high quality and distinction,” said Stacey Close, associate vice president of equity and diversity. “She took the lead on organizing numerous major diversity programs within our office and off campus . . . Morgane is the embodiment of a peaceful agape warrior for justice!”

Logan’s passion for issues of social justice and equality began in 1996, when she was a social worker for the Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services in the New Haven Superior Court and Superior Court for Juvenile Matters at Hartford. In 2001, American University selected her to assist with the development of the cultural competency curricula for drug court professionals.

Logan’s research has led to policy implementation and a continued cultural competence movement within the Connecticut Judicial System. She also assisted the Connecticut Court Support Service Division with the development of its cultural competence curriculum.

“Dr. Logan’s support of restorative justice mirrors the message of Dr. King,” said Eunice Matthews-Armstead, professor of social work and program coordinator of Eastern’s Social Work Program. “She is an organizer, teacher, leader and consummate fighter for justice, freedom and equality.”

Ralls is a social worker for the State of Connecticut, Public Defender Division. She started her career working in a local substance abuse agency helping people deal with homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness and other chronic medical conditions. She now works with the same population but in a legal environment, where the consequences are greater for clients because they are facing incarceration.

Ralls has a passion for advocating for those less fortunate in the community. As president of the NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch, she brings that same compassion and energy in fighting for civil rights. In her remarks, Ralls thanked members of the local NAACP branch for their activism, and said Dr. King had the “tenacity to help those who were voiceless.”

Three years ago, the branch was in reactivation status and needed 50 active members to reestablish operations. Under Rall’s leadership, the branch has grown to more than 120 members. She and branch members have worked hard to start a conversation and increase awareness and appreciation of Black History and civil rights in the local community. “In the past two years, under the leadership of Mrs. Ralls, our NAACP Windham/Willimantic Branch has run community conversations on race and addressed individual and institutional examples of racism in our area with a combination of education and legal action,” said Cassandra Martineau, university assistant in Eastern’s Pride Center. “She has worked with community leaders, schools and other institutions to raise awareness of racial disparity, helping ex-inmates find employment, and brought African American History to schools and libraries in the area.”

Keith Beauchamp

Keith Beauchamp, producer of the documentary “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” delivered the keynote address. He is the executive producer and host of Investigation Discovery’s crime reality series, “The Injustice Files” and the producer of the upcoming feature film “Till.”

Till was a 14-year-old African American teenager from Chicago visiting family in Mississippi in 1955 when he was brutally murdered by two white men for allegedly flirting with one of the men’s wife. The two men were acquitted of the murder, yet the truth behind Till’s death was largely left untold. Based in part on Beauchamp’s powerful film, the U.S. Department of Justice re-opened the 50-year-old murder case on May 10, 2004. While a Mississippi grand jury ultimately decided not to indict other suspects in the case, Beauchamp’s film reestablished Emmett Till’s story as a potent reminder of the need to fight racism and injustice at every turn.

“Racial issues are deeply embedded in the American lifestyle,” said Beauchamp. He called Martin Luther King Jr. a “gentle warrior,” and said Dr. King “left us with a vision of what this country can become. Regardless of our skill set, we are obligated to use it to uphold the legacy of Dr. King.”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez opened the ceremonies, noting current racial tensions in the nation and encouraging the audience to “stand tall as Dr. King did, confronting every instance when a person or a group people acts out their prejudice and bigotry.”

“Human beings are inevitably connected, no matter how hard someone may try to separate us. That is why the truth and power found in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can touch each of us and lift our hearts up together. Let us never forget Dr. King’s message – that each person in this world deserves to live in a just, caring society, and that we can never let violence, bigotry, and inhumanity prevail.”

She concluded, “Let me end with this passage from Dr. King: ‘I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.'”

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern Helps Hartford Deltas Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Eastern’s delegation (left to right): Dwight Bachman, public relations officer; Kayla Rose Thomas ’19 a communication major from Windsor; Morgan Russell ’19 a political science major from Hartford; Gov. Lamont; Stacey Close, associate vice president for equity and diversity; Katherine Atkinson, administrative assistant to Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Chelsy Popo ’19, a political science major from Manchester; Hanna Antoine ’22, a health sciences major from East Hartford; and Alyssa Lawrence ’22, a sociology major from East Hartford

Several Eastern staff and students attended the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s 34th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast at the Connecticut Convention Center on Jan. 21. Dr. King would have been 90 years old this year. 

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, State Treasurer Shawn Wooden, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, and Johana Hayes, the first African American woman elected to Congress from Connecticut, were among the many dignitaries in attendance.  Lamont promised the packed ballroom that he would create a diverse cabinet and state government that would work to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.

Since 1984, the Deltas have provided scholarships totaling $365,000 to upwards of 150 African American female high school students to support their college education.

Eastern Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

Demonstrations of Native dancing by members of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes rounded out the Native American Heritage Day of Events on Nov. 13.

Written by Jolene Potter

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/28/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University held several events in commemoration of Native American Heritage Month in November. Events featured prominent figures and speakers from the local Native American community – including internationally acclaimed author and environmental activist Winona LaDuke of the Anishinaabe Tribe as well as Chief Marilynn Malerba of the local Mohegan Tribe. The celebration also included demonstrations of music, jewelry making and natural medicines.

There are currently 573 tribes recognized by the federal government according to The Bureau of Indian Affairs. All federally recognized tribes are sovereign and self-governing nations that maintain a government-to-government relationship with the United States. Each indigenous nation has a distinct history, language and culture.

Native American Heritage Month serves to educate the public about the challenges faced by Native people currently and historically as well as the ways in which tribal citizens and communities have worked to address these challenges.

There are two federally recognized Native American tribes in Connecticut – the Mashantucket Pequot Nation and the Mohegan Tribe. However, there are several other tribes, bands and communities in Connecticut that don’t have federal recognition, including the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe, Paucatuck Eastern Pequot Tribe and Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation.

Many Native communities are not recognized by the federal government, as obtaining federal recognition requires extensive documentation, which is particularly difficult for the many Native communities that have oral histories with little written down. Without recognition, communities aren’t eligible for certain services and have limited rights to self-governance. The Eastern Pequots lost their federal status on Oct. 12 (Columbus Day), 2005.

Author and activist Winona LaDuke of the Anishinaabe Tribe spoke with the Eastern community on Oct. 31.

The first event of Native American Heritage Month occurred on Oct. 31 and featured internationally acclaimed author and environmental activist Winona LaDuke of the Anishinaabe Tribe. LaDuke’s talk, “A Native Perspective: Sustaining Our Land, Recovering the Sacred,” explored how indigenous understandings of land, religion and sacredness influence strategies for a sustainable environment.

The current and historical territorial dispossession of indigenous peoples often goes hand in hand with natural resource exploitation. LaDuke discussed how the exploitation of natural resources threatens Native communities, as well as the necessity for utilizing renewable forms of energy. This exploitation often violates treaty rights, threatens the environment and contributes to climate change.

LaDuke is the executive director of Honor the Earth, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and financial support for indigenous environmental justice. The organization recently played an active role in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. LaDuke was also involved in stopping work on the Sandpiper Pipeline in northern Minnesota in 2015.

Eastern hosted Chief Marilynn Malerba of the Mohegan Tribe on Nov. 7 at 3 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre. Malerba is the 18th chief of the Mohegan Tribe and is the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. Malerba spoke of many issues affecting Native communities throughout the nation including land rights, voting rights, rates of poverty and unemployment, violence – particularly against women and children – suicide, drug and alcohol abuse rates, educational shortcomings and healthcare inadequacies. “American Indian activism is needed now more than ever,” she said.

Chief Marilynn Malerba of the Mohegan Tribe spoke with the Eastern community on Nov. 7.

Malerba focused on the tendency for Native communities to experience poverty and joblessness. Seventeen percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and 27 percent of all self-identified Native Americans and Alaska Natives live in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

“The living conditions for Natives on reservations are often of poor quality,” said Malerba. “On many reservations the electricity is subpar, plumbing is subpar or nonexistent, the roads need renovating and the homes are overcrowded.” Malerba’s assertions are supported by data from the National Congress of American Indians, which states that 40 percent of Natives who live on reservations are in substandard housing, one-third of homes are overcrowded and less than 16 percent have indoor plumbing.

Eastern Pequot tribal members Natasha Gambrell ’15 and Valerie Gambrell ’77 (both Eastern graduates) spoke on Nov. 13 about the difficulties their tribe experiences with federal recognition.

Also discussed was the shockingly high rates of violence against women and children in Native communities. According to the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, American Indians are the victims of rape and sexual assault at a rate more than three times higher than that of any other race in the United States. Furthermore, while the majority of survivors of sexual assault are victimized by a family member or intimate partner, American Indian and Alaska Native women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence committed by a stranger or acquaintance outside of the tribal community, with 70 percent of perpetrators being non-Native. This creates unique challenges for tribal communities in adjudicating cases of sexual assault, leading to lower prosecution and a lack of justice for Native survivors of sexual violence.

Malerba also discussed the massive disparities in health care for Native Americans as compared to the general population. Although Native Americans are able to receive health care through Indian Health Services (IHS), like many other federal agencies that serve Native people, the IHS suffers from a lack of funding. As a result, one in three Natives are uninsured and lacking proper healthcare. According to the Center for Disease Control, Natives suffer from high rates of diabetes, obesity, substance abuse, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Another epidemic facing Native communities is youth suicide. According to U.S. Census data, suicide is the second most common cause of death for Native youth ages 15 to 24 – two and a half times the national rate for that age group.

“Maintaining a connection with their tribe lowers the suicide rate for indigenous youth, among serving them in other ways,” said Malerba. “The Indian Child Welfare Act is not highly regarded and indigenous children are still being displaced. This contributes greatly to an increased risk of suicide.”

Demonstrations of Native dancing by members of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes rounded out the Native American Heritage Day of Events on Nov. 13.

Malerba also stressed voter suppression as a major issue for Native communities. “Only about two percent of the U.S. population is made up of American Indian and Alaskan Native people,” said Malerba. “We can’t move mountains with elections. We need other people to care about and rally toward Native rights.” Some factors that contribute to voter suppression are lack of official addresses on most reservations and the distance of polling places from reservations.

Malerba ended her informative talk with an important lesson: “Have a large voice when you’re offered a seat at the table. Advocate for what you think is right.”

The month of recognition and celebration continued on Nov. 13 with the “Native American Heritage Day of Events.” Lessons in jewelry design were led by Natasha Gambrell ’15 of the Eastern Pequot Tribe. An interactive program featuring a variety of Native music was also held by Chris Newell, a singer and senior educator of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.

Native American Heritage Month events were co-sponsored by the Intercultural Center, Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing, the Office of Equity and Diversity, the Institute of Sustainable Energy and the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work.

 

Scholar-Activist Speaks on ‘Forgotten’ Bangladesh Genocide

Mofidul Hoque is an author and activist who has written 15 books on history, liberation and genocide studies. In 1996 he and seven trustees established the Liberation War Museum in Bangladesh.

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. —Mofidul Hoque, acclaimed scholar and founder of the Liberation War Museum, came to Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 7 to give a presentation titled “The Forgotten Genocide of Bangladesh in 1971: Lessons for the Future.” Hoque spoke on the atrocities committed in 1971 by the Pakistani government, which resulted in the death of some three million Bangladeshi people, and how his activism efforts have culminated in the Liberation War Museum in Bangladesh.

“The more we talk about it, the more it enters the public domain,” said Hoque of the genocide. “And we must talk about it, because if we are to say ‘never again,’ we need to know how it began.”

His presentation detailed how the people of Bangladesh became liberated after long struggling to obtain democratic and national rights, but at the expense of millions of lives. Initially many western countries were outraged at these acts of violence, however, interest in Bangladesh quickly faded. Now, Hoque says, it is considered the forgotten, or “lost,” genocide.

From 1975 to 1996, information regarding the Bangladesh genocide was suppressed, in a period academics refer to as “The Dark Era.” Hoque and other activists have taken steps to correct the misinformation and propaganda spread during this period.

Hoque and seven trustees established the Liberation War Museum in 1996 to commemorate the heroism of the Bangladeshi people as well as reestablish the facts and reality of the Bangladesh genocide. The Liberation War Museum, with its team of researchers, has collected more than 50,000 stories of recorded oral history.

Once a mobile museum contained within a bus, the Liberation War Museum now has a permanent location in Bangladesh. Hoque hopes to partner with other researchers and scholars who are interested in the historical events surrounding the Bangladeshi genocide, as well as other genocides which go largely ignored or unreported, such as the Rohingya persecution in 2016. In 2017, the Liberation War Museum sent researchers to interview Rohingya refugees to add to their oral history collections, and published a paper titled “The Rohingya Genocide: Compilation and Analysis of Survivor’s Testimonies.”

Although the museum collects artifacts from some of the worst atrocities in humanity’s history, Hoque still has a message of inspiration: “When we tell this story, it is not a story of victimization,” he said. “We talk about the struggle and the resilience of our people. That is what we wish to commemorate in this museum.”

This event was organized by the Office of Equity and Diversity and the Departments of Computer Science; History; and Political Science, Philosophy and Geography.

Eastern Supports Greater Hartford Urban League’s Equal Opportunity Day

Eastern was on hand on Nov. 2 when the Urban League of Greater Hartford (ULGH) celebrated its 54th Equal Opportunity Day with a gala at the Marriott Downtown Hartford. The ULGH’s mission is to reduce economic disparities in area communities through programs, services and educational opportunities. It provides programs and services in such areas as adult education, youth development, workforce development and training, economic empowerment, and health and wellness. The league provides services to more than 3,000 area residents annually.

The ULGH honored five individuals and Pratt and Whitney for their efforts in restoring hope in the community. They include WVIT-TV anchorwoman Keisha Grant; Entrepreneur Sanford Cloud Jr.; State Senator Douglas McCrory; noted photographer Riley Johnson; and Aundrya Montgomery, an active member of the ULGH’s Young Professionals auxiliary.