UIndy hosts The Culture of Indigenous Storytelling webinar

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The University of Indianapolis hosted a webinar for its University Series lectures on Oct. 24 titled “The Culture of Indigenous Storytelling with Sharon Nelson.” Assistant Professor of Diné Culture, Language and Leadership at Navajo Technical University, Sharon Nelson guest lectured and discussed the oral traditions of storytelling within Navajo culture.

Instructor for the English Department Kristine Newton said she submitted the webinar for its listing as a Lecture Performance Event over the summer after meeting Nelson at the Institute for Curriculum and Campus Internationalization Conference in May. Newton said she asked Nelson to guest lecture for her students based in China at Ningbo Institute of Technology, Zhejiang University, a partnering university of UIndy. With students based in China not being as familiar with Navajo traditions and culture, the idea of Nelson guest lecturing for the students was developed to be offered to the UIndy campus, according to Newton.

 “I was thrilled because I thought this was a great way to expose people to the Navajo Nation, as well as get them interested in Native American tribes and cultures that are even closer to Indianapolis,” Newton said.

With a doctorate in cultural traditions, Newton said she focuses on trying to incorporate as many cultures as she can into her curriculum and with UIndy putting together a land grant acknowledgement, Nelson’s lecture would be coming at an opportune time. Newton said that she hopes UIndy can connect more with Navajo Tech for the future so more people can learn and understand about the different Indigenous cultures. With Indigenous tribes being considered sovereign nations, opportunities for students to interact with unique international cultures allows for them to be introduced to Indigenous people and traditions they have never learned about without leaving the country, according to Newton.

“I would love to build on this connection between Navajo Tech University and UIndy. For example, you could do a study abroad without even technically going abroad,” Newton said. “You’re stepping into a different world, a different culture and you can see the different implications on education.”

Students of Newton’s who attended the event were able to find similarities within theirs and the Navajo cultures Nelson discussed in her lecture, according to Newton. Concepts like connections within the universe and approaches to medicines within the Navajo culture correlated directly with a lot of traditional Chinese medicinal practices, Newton said.

“I really am happy that so many people appreciated the lecture,” Newton said. “…I hope that we can do more collaborations with Indigenous communities all over the U.S. because I think that will definitely help UIndy expand and increase the comprehensive learning at this institution.”

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