RIC hosts reception for N.E. Native American Culture Week leaders
From left to right are Jenifer Giroux, RIC interim associate vice president; Kevin A. “Black Wolf” Hazard, who helped plan NENACW; Nancy L. Carriuolo, president of RIC, and her husband, Ralf Carriuolo; Daryl Black Eagle, council chief, Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe; Arthur T. Speaks ’76, from city planning department; Morgan Smiles Alot, native American middle school student; Elena Calderon-Patino, of R.I. State Council on the Arts; and Raymond “Two Hawks” Watson, chair of NENACW.
Leaders of the Third Annual New England Native American Culture Week were honored with a reception recently at the home of Rhode Island College President Nancy L. Carriuolo, where local tribe members in turn expressed their appreciation for the support they receive from the state’s oldest college.
“We feel right at home here at RIC,” said Ray Watson, a native American who chaired the Sept. 22-30 series of events. The program included on-campus panel discussions on Indian stereotypes and the role of the warrior, culminating in a weekend powwow at the Roger Williams National Memorial on North Main Street. Native Americans led the parade marking the 35th annual Rhode Island Heritage Day Festival Sept. 22 as part of their culture week.
Rhode Island College, its faculty and staff have been exceptionally supportive since his group began sponsoring native American week at RIC three years ago, Watson said at the reception, and, from Carriuolo herself, the support has been “200 percent,” he added. “She is a woman, not only of word, but of action.”
Calling it “an honor and privilege” for the college to work with the native American community, Carriuolo told the gathering that she, her husband, Ralf, and her son, Matthew, have long been interested in native American culture. When they lived in South County and Connecticut years ago, Carriuolo said, the family regularly would attend Indian powwows, and she herself frequently worked with native Americans during a previous administrative post she held at the University of New Haven.
When Ray Watson along with Jenifer Giroux, interim associate vice president at RIC, first suggested that the college should sponsor native American events, Carriuolo said she was “delighted.”
Watson said this year’s panel discussions held at RIC were especially “robust” due in part to the contributions of two of the college’s faculty members: Maria Lawrence, associate professor of elementary education and a native American who facilitated the panel discussion on Indian stereotypes; and Lawrence Wilson, an adjunct professor of human resources and native American who took his entire class to the discussion on the role of the warrior.
He did so, Wilson said, to better teach them about diversity. “I just believe that diversity issues, and a full understanding of diversity, are what drives virtually every decision those [human resource] students will be making in their professional lives,” Wilson said later.
Maria Lawrence suggested that RIC is fulfilling an important part of its mission by supporting indigenous Americans, thereby acknowledging, as the mission statement says, that “students here are members of a caring community that respects diversity and values academic excellence informed by cultural inquiry, civic engagement, and co-curricular activity.”
Watson held out the hope that the annual native American culture week will continue at RIC for many more years. American Indians in the eastern part of the country must do more to tell people about their culture and way of life, he said, and possibly correct erroneous assumptions formed from Old West tales. He noted that modern society is coming to appreciate many of the values native Americans have held sacred for centuries, such as respect for the land and the environment. Watson, who also goes by the name of Raymond Two Hawks, is a Providence resident and executive director of the Mount Hope Neighborhood Association.