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Delights and Discoveries.

Scorpio Sphinx ATE Conference 8-1-05

By Freddie A. Bowles
Posted from Bismarck, North Dakota

legendaryDear Readers,
As I pack in preparation for Tuesday's departure, I also reflect on the past four days of novelty and excitement. At first mention, one might consider the novelty to originate from the delights and discoveries of experiencing a new place and yes, I'd agree that's valid conjecture. North Dakota is a demure oasis, a welcome respite from the harried pace of burgeoning northwest Arkansas. Bismarckians show a stoic, cheerful demeanor as they openly welcome guests to the North Country.

Summer is Greener and Cleaner,
Winter Whiter and Brighter.

I haven't heard an official count, but I would guess that around 200 to 250 participants are attending the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) Summer Conference. My early arrival on Thursday evening allowed me to participate in the Academy Leadership program on Friday and Saturday, which centered on cultural responsive pedagogy for Native Americans.

Guest speakers from several First Nation groups interwove history, customs, and ways of knowing in presentations for over 40 Academy Leadership cohorts during these pre-conference events. Marilyn Johnson and Jeannette Haynes Writer, conference organizers extraordinaire, assured participants of a fine mixture of informative sessions, good food, and excursions in edu-lingo, "field trips" to support the conference theme, "Advocacy Through Engagement: The School-Community Collaborative Imperative in Educating ALL Children."

United Tribes, Indian Nations.

The conference officially opened on Sunday with an evening trip to United Tribes Technical College for dinner, a visit to the art museum, and a presentation by Dr. Karen Gayton Swisher, President of Haskell Indian Nations University. Wes Long Feather, assistant to the college president, welcomed our group to the campus. The general session then commenced with an invocation at the medicine wheel grounds. More than 100 people stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle around the symbolical representations of the four directions. Tom Red Bird gave a heartfelt invocation in Lakota and then in English.

Two groups were formed, one to see the new museum and the other to begin sampling a diverse offering of dishes from United Tribes, the Gandhi Peace Network of North Dakota, the Germans from Russia, and the Sons of Norway. Polka and waltz music by Harvey Shilling and Company and folk dances from The Prairie Players extended the theme of community engagement.

While one group savored the flavor, the other group nourished the spirit at the soon-to-be-opened art museum, a pine timber cottage with vaulted ceilings and deep recessed windows. You could smell the woodland aromas as you entered a magical display of sculpted creatures, colorful artwork, woven baskets, and intricate beadwork. Some of the treasures graced display cases. Others hung from the wizened tree branches of a driftwood tree.

Community, Family, Children.

Eventually, the groups switched places before slowly reforming as one at the outdoor arena, where we listened to Memory Eagle, a second-year student at United Tribes, sing a moving acappella rendition of the National Anthem. The keynote speaker gave her address about community, family, and children, and how educators can engage all groups in the learning environment.

The setting sun sent us on our mellow way back to the hotel. For many, returning to the city meant another round of camaraderie at a local eatery. New friends, novel settings, and fine food capped the first day of the conference.

Now, as I finish this letter, the second day has already come to a close. It's late here at the Best Western. Tomorrow's presentations begin early. Monday's tale will have to wait for another day.

Goodnight from Bismarck.

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