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Science and engineering conference gathers students

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- More than 1,500 American Indian high school and college
students from across the country gathered in Charlotte for a three-day
conference put on by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society of
Albuquerque, N.M.

AISES's 27th Annual National Conference and Career Fair included student
orientation, pledges, exhibits, workshops, awards, banquets, a pow wow, the
election of leaders, and opening and closing ceremonies.

The conference also included a one-day career fair put on by more than 200
exhibitors from colleges, corporations and government agencies.

During opening ceremonies, Chief Gilbert Blue of the Catawba Indian Nation
told the students, "You will learn those things that will give you the
opportunity to obtain full stature as adults, that you will have integrity
of those things that you do.

"It's not always easy, because when we go to Washington to speak to a
governor, congressman or a senator, sometimes they will speak down to us;
sometimes they will want to lie to us, and it's hard to be respectful of
people who want to treat us that way.

"But I promise you that if we have integrity, if we will be respectful to
those with whom we deal -- regardless of how they treat us -- we will be
rewarded. We will have successes."

Earlene Stacks, member of the Lumbee Tribe and board member of the
Commission of Indian Affairs in North Carolina, said, "I would like to
bring you greetings from [the] 16,000 American Indian students that we have
in the public schools in North Carolina. We also have some 1,500 American
Indian students in our colleges and universities. I am delighted that you
chose to come to Charlotte for the AISES conference."

AISES was started in 1977 by American Indian scientists, engineers and
educators. The organization now has chapters in high schools and colleges
in seven regions across the nation.

ONE STUDENT'S RESEARCH

Twyla Baker-Demaray, of Grand Forks, N.D., was one of several American
Indian graduate students presenting their research at the conference.

Older American Indian women appeared less concerned about elder abuse than
older men, said the Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara graduate student. She is
studying American Indian elder abuse for a master's degree at the
University of South Dakota.

Baker-Demaray conducted a survey of elders at the National Indian Council
on Aging conference a year ago in Milwaukee, Wis., where 470 questionnaires
were completed by American Indian elders 55 and older.

"We split them up by age groups, by gender, locality, whether they lived on
an Indian reservation or in an Indian community or in urban areas,"
Baker-Demaray explained. "The trend was basically that as our age groups
went up, the older age groups showed less concern for all types of abuse
than the younger, 55 years, who showed a little more concern for abuse in
the communities."

Baker-Demaray said people on the reservations or in Indian communities
showed more concern for abuse than those off the reservations.

Her survey showed that older-generation females were less concerned about
abuse. "Our review showed that ... overall, older-generation females are at
the highest risk of abuse," she said. "Either they are not really talking
about it, [are] not willing to talk about it, or they don't know what it
is."

Often, that was the case, Baker-Demaray said. "If nobody hits me, I am not
being abused" is what the older women seem to say, she explained.

"It depends on what Indian nation you are talking to, [what] their
definition of abuse [is]. It's different in Alaska than it is in New
Mexico. And these are all based on culture," she said.

Baker-Demaray found that the oldest of Americans Indians studied appeared
less concerned about abuse, likely because they are from the generation of
government boarding schools. "Maybe they are a bit more accepting of this
type of behavior: 'This is the status quo. This is how it always has been,
and this how it always is going to be.' They accept it," she speculated.

Baker-Demaray discovered that the 55-year-old group is a product of the
American Indian Movement mentality and is more concerned about abuse. "They
might be willing to step up and say 'Hey, this is not right,'" she said.

Baker-Demaray admitted her survey was of older American Indians who were
healthy enough to attend conferences. Her survey did not include those in
nursing homes or in formal health care facilities, she said.