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Native American students hope guest speaker will shed light on campus group

Nov. 2, 1999

By GREG KOEHLER

Contributor

As part of this month's Native American Heritage celebration, Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Herrington will deliver a speech titled 'Maybe So and Maybe Not!' at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Kayser Auditorium.

Herrington has established himself as an officer of high caliber in the U.S. Navy and has been training for his first space mission for the past several months. As a member of the Chickasaw nation, Herrington will become the first Native American to enter space as an astronaut.

Jacob Wruck, a Waco senior, is the former president and current council member of the Baylor Native American Student Association. Wruck said this speaking engagement is currently the only event at Baylor planned for Native American Heritage Month.

He said he hopes the event will help draw attention to the organization.

'The purpose of our Native American Heritage Month celebration will be to inform Baylor students about Indian culture and for Native students on campus who do not know about our club to find out and possibly join,' Wruck said.

The Baylor Native American Student Association (NASA) formed in the early 90s as a means for Native American students to get together to learn about their culture and promote awareness on the Baylor campus.

The organization has recently struggled with low membership because of a lack of publicity and a small Native American student body. The current roster includes about eight active members and several other registered members who do not regularly attend meetings or functions.

Kimberly Roppolo, a Waco graduate student, said the organization was founded thanks to the efforts of Keith Bullock, a former student and member of the Alabama Coushatta tribe, and Chancellor Herbert Reynolds.

NASA has maintained club status since 1995 and has coordinated several events on campus to educate people about Native American culture.

Such events have included the spring powwow, which the organization has sponsored at the Ferrell Center four times in the last six years.

NASA plans to host another powwow next spring and will invite Indian singers, dancers and artists from across the nation to participate.

Roppolo said she hopes this fall's Native American heritage celebration will begin to inform students about Native American culture and help eliminate stereotypes about it.

'All Americans should have at least some knowledge of Native American culture. The country we have now exists out of what they had before we got here,' Roppolo said. 'There has been a lot of suffering on their part.'

Members of NASA said they are extremely hopeful about the future of their organization, even though their numbers are small. They are currently planning trips to powwows in Austin and Killeen and are working on preliminary plans for the powwow and cultural celebration in the spring semester.

In the meantime, Roppolo encouraged students to attend multicultural events such as the Native American Heritage Month lecture 'to learn more about our American culture as a whole.'