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Released March 4, 2003


By Elizabeth Bice

HATTIESBURG - The University of Southern Mississippi's unique Golden Eagle Intertribal Society will hold a benefit "powwow" March 21-22 in an effort to strengthen its campus presence.

The powwow will consist of such cultural activities as Native American dancing, singing, arts and crafts, and food, said Joseph Bohanon, faculty adviser to the student association for Native American.

The proceeds from vendor sales will be used to support society activities.

"We are beginning to gain interest on the Southern Miss campus and have begun collaboration with various organizations," added Bohanon, a doctoral student and member of the Oklahoma Choctaw Tribe.

Established in May 2002, the Golden Eagle Intertribal Society began with a mission of creating a stronger presence for Native American students on the Southern Miss campus. The group seeks to dispel stereotypes by educating students about Native American culture.

"This organization is extremely important because it opens us up to others with knowledge about our culture," said Jason Grisham, a graduate student from Philadelphia and a member of the Choctaw Tribe. He serves as president of the society. "There is no organization similar to this on any college campus in Mississippi."

The Golden Eagle Intertribal Society currently has 12 active members – mostly from the Choctaw Indian Tribe – and seven officers. Under Bohanon's guidance, the group held three organizational meetings in the spring of 2002, elected officers and created a society constitution. The group submitted a chapter application and was officially recognized as a student organization. In addition to Choctaw, the society also includes members from the Chitimacha Tribe, which is based in Louisiana, and the Cherokee Tribe.

Although the group held a dance exhibition last spring – with dancers and drummers from the Mississippi Choctaw reservation – the upcoming powwow is expected to be more involved and educational.

The benefit is open to the public, with free admission from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. that Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. that Saturday, at the recreational field adjacent to the Southern Miss Sports Arena, on the eastern side of the Southern Miss campus. The event is co-sponsored by the Southern Miss Department Recreational Sports, the School of Social Work Graduate Student Organization, Coats Aloe Inc. and various Choctaws in the community.

In the event of bad weather, the event will be held at the Southern Miss Payne Center.

Bohanon said the Native American students want to become more active on campus and recently participated in a university international festival that featured students from a wide range of foreign countries.

"The main purpose of the Golden Eagle Intertribal Society is to bring all Native American students together and educate the public on what we're all about," said Grisham.

"There are still a lot of stereotypes out there about Native Americans. We really want to open people's minds and help them understand our culture."


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM