Hatfield School of Government New Educational Program, "Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times" Launched
Author: David Santen, Office of University Communications (503-725-8789)
Posted: March 29, 2007

Program Creator Elizabeth Furse Honored by Northwest Indians

A new CD-based educational program, “Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times,” profiles the work of contemporary Native American leaders such as John Echohawk, Kathryn Harrison, and Tim Wapato.

The curriculum was developed and produced by the Institute for Tribal Government at Portland State University. It shares stories and voices that aim to correct many misunderstandings about Native Americans, while demonstrating the vibrant roles that tribal governments play today. A DVD based on the curriculum is being developed for public use and can be purchased in summer 2007.

The program was introduced at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians' winter conference, held in February 2007 in Portland, Ore. Former Oregon Congresswoman and executive director of PSU’s Institute for Tribal Government, Elizabeth Furse, was honored at the conference awards banquet, in recognition of her longtime commitment to supporting tribes’ development in working with government agencies.

“We owe Elizabeth Furse a big thank you,” said Ernie Stensgar, president of the Affiliated Tribes and a council member in the Coeur d’Alene tribe based in Plummer, Idaho. “She has made it a lot easier to learn the legislative process. Understanding the importance of tribal and state relations is critical for us.”

“This recognition from the Northwest tribes is an enormous honor and I will always cherish their loving words and thoughts,” said Furse. “Working for tribes and treaty rights has given me the opportunity to truly reach for justice.”

The Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times project grew out of the “Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times” class developed at PSU by Elizabeth Furse and oral historian Kay Reid. The course is based upon a collection of video-recorded interviews with tribal leaders from across the United States, speaking about their lives and work from 1950 to the present.

Those interviewed have worked to preserve tribal culture, self-determination, treaty rights, and the constitutionally protected status of tribes as sovereign governments. An accompanying workbook presents the historical, social, political and legal contexts that tribal leaders faced. Also provided are an extensive bibliography and study guides for the individual interviews and for the eras of federal Indian policy since the founding of the U.S. government.

In their interviews, the leaders relate from first-hand experience the effect that these federal policies have had on tribal people and their work to reshape those policies, influence natural resource managements and other topics of regional, national, and international concern. The continuing survival of Indian tribes and the evolution of tribal governments to meet unforeseen challenges are recurring themes of this course.

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times is produced through the Institute for Tribal Government at the Hatfield School of Government, College of Urban and Public Affairs, Portland State University. The CD-ROM and DVD are being distributed through the School of Extended Studies at Portland State. The curriculum is a Virtual Education Software, Inc (VESi) online course divided into 16 sections. Portland State University is one of the first learning institutions in the country to make it available to students for university credit.

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times curriculum, interviewing and outreach has been supported by the Meyer Memorial Trust, the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians, the Siletz Charitable Fund, the Rose Tucker Charitable Trust, the Qwest Foundation, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the National Archives, and the U.S. Departments of Education, Defense and the Administration for Native Americans.

Students and teachers interested in the program should call 1-800-313-6744 or visit Media review copies of the CD and cover images are also available upon request.

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Source: Roy Hunter Sampsel (503-725-9000;
Institute for Tribal Government