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Elder spreads Native knowledge in Holland

WASHINGTON – Scott Frazier, a Crow/Santee elder, spent the latter part of October visiting educational institutions and companies in and around Holland to offer perspectives on Native life and environmental issues.

As part of his educational outreach, Frazier presented a program, titled “Native Perspectives on Environmental Issues,” for the faculty of environmental science at Utrecht University. The university is one of the oldest in the Netherlands and among the largest in Europe.

He later presented a cultural diversity program, called “A Native Perspective on Communication and Dialogue,” for employees of the Stipo company, an outlet focused on city renewal that supports the introduction of arts and culture into residential areas.

A rare opportunity was also given to Frazier for a lunchtime program scheduled at The Hague. During another public event, “Kiva Day,” he spoke and provided a workshop in Zutphen.

“Some of the people in Holland have a better understanding of the Native culture than non-Native people in the United States,” he reflected during his voyage. “Perhaps this is due to their not living near the culture and carrying some of the many stereotypes held in the U.S.

“I see a greater curiosity and willingness to learn truths about the Native people. Europe generally, in my opinion, has a strong cultural respect for American Indian people.”

Locals asked many questions about his tribal and family history, cultural background, biodiversity, cultural diversity, communication and the indigenous vision for the future as it applies to climate change, global warming and care for the Earth.

The queries were very much welcomed by Frazier, who has decades of experience in the environmental arena. He said he now looks forward to sharing what he learned from his visit with Natives at home, especially in terms of energy development.

“[W]hat stands out right now is the greater understanding [in Holland] of utilizing green energy such as windmills.

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“I will also share their experiences with protecting/utilizing water resources and plans to construct huge dyke projects.

“Also, with any journey abroad, I always gain an insight into the culture and people of that area which, in turn, may be shared with those I meet and address at functions held in the U.S. or across the Earth, for that matter.”

Frazier’s trip from Bozeman, Mont., was hosted by the Red Thunderbird Agency, a Dutch firm that promotes Native art and culture. The firm regularly organizes events in Europe featuring Indian representatives from across the U.S.

On the U.S. side, the voyage was facilitated by a Montana-based firm called Project Indigenous, which provides educational programs that teach from an indigenous perspective. It focuses specifically on fields relating to the preservation and respect of Native lands, natural resources and Native cultures.

The firm recently launched into a formal business structure. Previously, its work and projects have been independently and privately organized.

The aim of Project Indigenous’ cultural diversity programs is to highlight facts about Native cultures and aid audiences in understanding truths versus stereotypes and myths. The programs are meant to bring greater respect and understanding about different ethnic backgrounds.

Shelley Bluejay Pierce, a coordinator for Project Indigenous, said more teaching trips overseas are currently in the planning stages.

“We are no longer isolated individual countries … we are truly an interconnected species with many of the same struggles,” Bluejay Pierce said.

“Our trips abroad allow us to learn, expand our knowledge base and return that back to the variety of outlets in the U.S. Our sharing with a vast audience allows an expanded appreciation and understanding for the indigenous point of view on a wide variety of topics.”