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New England Army Corps Observes Native American Heritage

Shelly Lowe, executive director of the Harvard University Native American Program, visited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District.

Shelly Lowe, executive director of the Harvard University Native American Program, visited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District to serve as keynote speaker at the Equal Employment Opportunity’s Native American Heritage Month event. Lowe’s presentation, held in the Concord Park theater in Massachusetts, was titled, “Native Americans in Higher Education.”

The keynote speaker began by talking about values that are found in the Native American culture. “Identity and location matter,” she said. “Difference is not a problem. Education is important. Our history and future are equally important.”

According to Lowe, Native Americans are diverse. They are practitioners and scholars that fill multiple roles. “We are dedicated to access and success,” she said. “We want indigenous epistemology and methodology.”

Lowe talked about the invisibility of Native Americans in the higher education system. “One percent of total college students enrolled are Native American,” she said. “In the fall of 2009, 0.5 percent of full-time college faculty identified themselves as Native Americans and only 0.3 percent were at full professor level.”

Continual crises that the Native American community addresses include student retention, loss of language, culture and tribal knowledge, poverty and historical trauma. Lowe said tribal colleges and universities, first established in 1968, are starting to offer Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees to Native American students. According to Lowe, tribal colleges and universities currently offer community centers and active memorandums of understanding and transfer programs with non-indigenous institutions. “University cultural spaces provide a place to be and student support,” she said. “They maintain community and cultural health and provide history and sense of belonging.”

Lowe concluded the November 4 presentation by challenging the audience to get to know indigenous communities and increase a Native American presence in the District. Lt. Col. Charles Gray, Deputy Commander, New England District, presented Lowe with a Bunker Hill plaque for coming to speak with the District team.

Prior to her work at Harvard, Lowe was an Assistant Dean at Yale University. She is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Gando, Arizona.

Lowe has served on the board of the National Indian Education Association and as a trustee on the Board for the National Indian Education Association.