Sequoyah Research Center highlights intellectual discussions

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Stories and Photos by Paul DeMain
Little Rock, Arkansas (NFIC)

While it appears that out in Indian Country the secrets of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Sequoyah Institute is one of Indian Country’s best held ones, those that have been attending the last few years know how valuable the annual conference has become for discussing modern day issues facing the Native community.

The Sequoyah Research Center is a number of things. First of all it was named for the creator of the Cherokee syllabary and dedicated to the collection, preservation, and dissemination of the words and ideas of Native American individuals, nations, and organizations.

In that capacity, the research center has become, from all estimations, the worlds largest repository of American Indian/Native newspapers and periodicals including Native press history and resources related to Native writers.

That collection alone encompasses over 2,100 titles published primarily by Native nations, organizations and individuals, including an entire set of the Cherokee Phoenix which began publishing in 1828 in Cherokee and English under the Cherokee editor, Elias Boudinot.

The collection also contains files on an estimated 4,500 Native writers, including bibliographic records, biographical information and copies of ephemeral works. These files compliment the many manuscripts and special collection, including papers on scholars and writers, records of Native media organizations and boxes of materials related to press history and tribal history.

Many files are now in microform and microfilm as well as records of tribal nations and federal agencies.

Sequoyah Institute director, Daniel F. Littlefield Jr., once commented that in pursuing the primary goal of finding and completing a volume from a non-publishing tribal newspaper they would locate copies in a basement, closet or outside trailer, and inadvertently come across boxes of other material deteriorating, and would put it into their truck. It is now archived for research.

But most of all, the institute now provides an opportunity for recording discussions of modern political, cultural and social issues annually, some based on research completed at the institute, and the best networking was done around the coffee table or during lunch.

The institute is also undertaking an effort to build a new library to house their collections. The Institute is looking for people and organizations who would be willing to assist in this endeavor.

For more information on the Sequoyah Center, or American Native Archives
contact On The Net:

Alfreda Doonkeen (Seminole) and her mother Eula Narcomey Doonkeen (Seminole-Natchez) gave a presentation on “Early Seminole History” and “Name Theories for Red Sticks, and Cimarron.” The overview dwelled on Seminole history, migration, clans, language and interpretation errors by non-Native historians whose errors are picked up by scholars, who then repeat them. Eula Doonkeen gave her presentation in the oral tradition of Native elders, weaving her presentation together with life experiences.


Warren Petoskey (Odawa/Lakota) from the Little Traverse Band of Odawa gave a presentation entitled “The Sanctuary,” and led a discussion about healing the history of families affected by the boarding schools, orphanages and foster care systems.


Fredrick White (Haida) provide an overview of Native language issues in a session entitled “Linguistic Colonialoscopy: Decolonizing Indigenous Language.” A shorted version of his presentation is found in this website as a contribution to the Native Languages section. White, who teaches composition, linguistics, and literature in the English department at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, highlighted the need to make Native languages a helpful and important part of family and home life.


Stuart Youngman Hoahwah (Comanche) talked about the difficulties and hard work needed to write a book of poetry or other material, and the struggle of getting published as a Native author.


Roberto Rodriquez (Nahua-Chichimecal) made a presentation entitled “Indigenous Liberation Research and Methodology” while participant and author Cara Brookins (right) a student intern at the Sequoyah Institute discussed topics and events at the conference.