by Sam Stevens (MCC Advisor)
Mesa, AZ - On Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, MCC's ISO (Inter-tribal Student Organization) club and the AII (American Indian Institute) presented their inaugural guest speaker series and introduced American Indian faculty members Ed Welsh (Business) and Alfred Yazzie (American Indian History/Navajo Language) to students attending the weekly club meeting. Sharing a pizza lunch with an audience of approximately 35 students and other staff members, these two passionate educators shared their life's experiences and offered valuable advice and personal insight about education and the importance of it to the future of students, particularly in regard to Indian related issues.
After a brief introduction from Yvonne Dinehdeal, business faculty Ed Welsh was given the floor. He began with a short personal history as a recent law school graduate in the late 1960's working at Phoenix College and later at Scottsdale Community College, teaching courses on business law while he prepped to pass the bar exam. He also mentioned that he had studied law in New Mexico and learned from prominent American Indian political advocate Russell Means as part of his education. Under Nixon's Indian Self-Determination Act of the 1970's, Welsh became involved practicing and educating about business law related to Indian tribes. With tribes given greater freedom to administer and manage their own programs and provide their own health and educational services there was a need to help motivated Indian people learn the legalities of economic development in Indian country. It was in this field that Ed excelled and which has kept him motivated for the past 30+ years as an instructor and business lawyer.
Welsh encouraged everyone in attendance to consider understanding business laws related to Indian issues as a means of improving economic inequities that exist on nearly every reservation. He gave examples of how tribes who are planning more are also benefitting more from proper understanding of how to utilize their lands and other natural resources from a business and self-sufficiency perspective. He suggested that students consider business practices on their reservations that are 'out-of-the-box' in relation to the current generational thinking which underlies some of the current business-related problems on Indian lands. He then invited anyone interested in learning more to come speak with him about how to set up their own business or to understand what it takes to become involved in the legal side of business through further education or the study of law. He concluded with some of the greatest memories he has working in the field and most of them have been because of the relationships he has built with students along the way which keep him teaching in the field. He currently teaches Legal, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues in Business (GBS205) and two sections of Business Law (GBS206 and 207) and will also begin teaching more about cyber law in the future.
History and Navajo language instructor Alfred Yazzie, who is also serving as the ISO club advisor, was the second speaker of the afternoon. His story began with his birth on the Hopi reservation and being raised on the Navajo reservation where he attended boarding schools on the reservation and got to experience all of the strife and trauma brought on by a proper BIA education. From an early age he had an interest in reading books and as a bright and curious third-grader he earned a certificate for having completed 35 books, the most of any student that year; he still possesses the certificate. His love of reading opened his eyes to the knowledge contained in books and as a result not only did his intelligence begin to grow, but his use of language and an improvement in speaking ability began to evolve as well. He credits his grandmother for instilling in him a sense of persistence in the face of adversity and he shared with students that while he experienced many setbacks in his life, he has persisted through them all because of his grandmother's example and his own willingness to persevere.
From dropping out of high school just shy of graduation to attempting to become an artist and architect, Alfred's story was filled with a lot of reflection but also a lot humor and honesty which he used to hold the audience's attention. He talked about enrolling as a student at Navajo Community College in Tsaile, AZ, winning a medal at the national archery tournament, and dreaming of shooting in the Olympics (a dream he still has today). He also mentioned dealing with issues of alcoholism and anger as a young man wanting to stand with like-minded people and fight against social injustices. However, he learned that setting aside the anger and frustration he felt was the only way he could heal. With the healing came an interest in returning to the culture he was born into and he sought further college education to supplement this renewed awakening. He ended his talk by explaining that the most important things he learned through his life thus far is that as people we are all related like family and to persist through adversity is the best way to continue moving forward in life.
Both faculty members did a tremendous job speaking to the students who attended and everyone enjoyed the time that was spent listening to their experiences. ISO and the AII will continue to bring MCC's American Indian faculty and staff to their students for more of these engagements. We also encourage students to explore major options by signing up for the classes taught by these educators and adding them to their own network. The next faculty speaker series will be featured on March 25, 2014 at the ISO meeting from 12:00 pm- 2:00 pm. Come and learn more about our passionate and dedicated American Indian educators at MCC.
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