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UNI helps build a bridge between Meskwaki and Taiwan's indigenous tribes

Contact: 

Craig Klafter, associate provost, International Programs, 319-273-6807, craig.klafter@uni.edu

Lindsay Cunningham, Office of University Relations, 319-273-6728, lindsay.cunningham@uni.edu

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Craig Klafter, associate provost for International Programs at the University of Northern Iowa, announced recently that a full scholarship will be offered to a Taiwan student of indigenous heritage to study at UNI for a semester during the 2013-14 academic year. The scholarship is the most recent move in an effort to develop closer ties between UNI and the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki).

UNI, in partnership with the National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taiwan, has been working to connect the Meskwaki with indigenous peoples of Taiwan to work on issues of common interest including indigenous language revitalization. In a recent visit to NCCU, Klafter and Meskwaki tribe member and UNI alumna Yolanda Pushetonequa, visited with Deputy Minister Lin Chiang-Yi of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, Executive Yuan, Republic of China. They discussed a wide range of issues and interests common to the Meskwaki and Taiwan's indigenous tribes.

While in Taiwan, Pushetonequa gave a lecture at NCCU, titled "Best Practices in North American Indigenous Language Revitalization," in which she described a range of community-based approaches to language revitalization used in the U.S. and Canada. She was also able to meet members of Taiwan's Saisiyat and Atayal tribes. "It's a beautiful thing to travel to the other side of the world and meet people who are just like us in many ways," said Pushetonequa. "It felt good to see there are others who see the world in a similar way that tribal people in the U.S. do."

Pushetonequa's visit stemmed from her efforts to preserve the Meskwaki language as the founding director of the Meskwaki Language Department and now as a doctoral candidate in linguistics at the University of Minnesota. UNI has supported the efforts of the Meskwaki to preserve their language by providing faculty and staff expertise in teaching second languages to the Meskwaki Settlement School's culture teachers, who are charged with teaching the Meskwaki language.

The Government of Taiwan and NCCU have been in the forefront of indigenous language preservation, helping to revitalize the 40 indigenous languages of Taiwan's 14 indigenous tribes.  "It is our hope," said Klafter, "that by means of this scholarship, the University of Northern Iowa will continue its efforts to build a bridge between the Meskwaki and the indigenous tribes of Taiwan so that they can learn from each other about methods of indigenous language revitalization and work together to address issues of mutual concern."

For more information about UNI's Office of International Programs, visit www.uni.edu/internationalprograms/.