PHILADELPHIA-- Suzan Shown Harjo, a leading Native American rights advocate, journalist, poet and president of The Morning Star Institute, a national Indian rights organization, will be the inaugural speaker in a year-long, four-part seminar series, "Dialogues Across Indian Country," sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania's Provost Seminar Fund. The "Dialogues" series is a collaborative project of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Penn's departments of Anthropology and History and Graduate School of Education.
"Who Is a Native American, Who Is a Sports Mascot and Who Gets to Decide?" is the subject of Ms. Harjo's talk, Thursday, Nov. 18, at 4 p.m. in the Rainey Auditorium of the Penn Museum. The program is free and open to the public.
Harjo is the lead plaintiff in Harjo et al. v. Pro Football Inc., a lawsuit the Native American parties won in 1999 before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The goal of the lawsuit is to discourage the Washington football club from using the team's name, Redskins, which the Native Americans say is demeaning and derogatory. A federal judge overturned the three trademarks judges' decision in 2003 and the case is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Harjo, who is Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is president of The Morning Star Institute, a national Indian rights organization providing traditional and cultural advocacy, arts promotion and research. She has been instrumental in bringing into law many acts, including the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the 1989 National Museum of the American Indian Act.
A founding trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian, she has curated several exhibitions on the East Coast, including "Visions from Native America," a 1992 exhibition in the U.S. Senate and House rotundas. A regular columnist for "Indian Country Today," a Native American newspaper, her commentary and poetry are widely published.
"Dialogues Across Indian Country," this year's Provost's Interdisciplinary Seminar Series, will draw upon the work and perspectives of Native and non-Native American anthropologists, educators, historians, legal scholars, medical researchers, social workers and others.
Penn Museum has a well-documented collection of materials made by Native Americans and an active American section, including curators, collections keepers and scholars who work with Penn students, faculty, the public and Native peoples to share information about Native American cultures through courses, research, exhibitions and public programs.
In January 2005, the Museum and the University embark on a collaborative exchange program, bringing Native American college students to Penn and the Museum for intensive undergraduate research projects involving the collections, while non-Native American students from Penn will have an opportunity to visit Native American communities. The three-year pilot project, "Native Voices, Past and Present, Studies of Native American Collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology," is intended to foster stronger ties between the University, the Museum, Native American peoples-and ultimately, Museum visitors who may benefit from the collaboration through enhanced exhibitions and public programs.