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Tribal Liaisons Meet with UW American Indian Studies Students, Staff

March 2, 2016

Sergio Maldonado’s message to University of Wyoming American Indian Studies Program students was direct and to the point, stressing the value of an education and becoming lifelong readers.

Maldonado and Leslie Shakespeare visited the UW campus last week -- with a personal invitation from UW President Dick McGinity -- to meet with American Indian Studies Program students and faculty members as a way to keep the lines of communication open with Wind River Indian Reservation residents.

Maldonado, an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, and Shakespeare, an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, are tribal liaisons appointed by Gov. Matt Mead.

“Having the liaisons here benefits us because it gives our Native students the opportunity to meet the two people from the Wind River Indian Reservation who are in a position of influence, power and an authority within the Legislature,” says Caskey Russell, American Indian Studies (AIS) Program director and an associate professor.

Liaisons are appointed by the governor from recommendations provided by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, and require Senate confirmation. The state provides funding for their expenses and salaries.

Maldonado and Shakespeare attended Mead’s recent State of the State address to Wyoming legislators, and that is when McGinity invited the tribal liaisons to visit campus.

The two liaisons received a program overview from Russell before speaking to a tribal government class, taught by Tory Fodder, a postdoctoral research associate in American Indian Studies. They later met with some of the program’s faculty members, and had dinner with McGinity and UW administrators; the American Indian Studies advisory committee; American Indian Student Alliance; representatives of the Keepers of the Fire student club; and supporters of American Indian Studies.

The pair later attended the UW men’s basketball game against San Diego State University.

Shakespeare, who received an undergraduate degree in criminal justice with a minor in American Indian Studies in 2002 from UW, says the visit to campus was a good opportunity for him to return to see how the AIS program is progressing.

He sees continued cooperation between the two Wind River Indian Reservation tribes and UW, especially in terms of students from the reservation continuing with higher education studies. Shakespeare hopes for more UW visits in the future.

Maldonado, who recently started his liaison duties for the state, says being a longtime educator will benefit him in this position.

“Our purpose for this visit to the University of Wyoming is not only to connect with the community, the staff and students, but more important, as to who we are as tribal liaisons for both tribes,” Maldonado says. “I really stress this, and I shared this with the students: Family is community, everybody, and that education is the foundation to a good life. I also told the students to never stop reading -- if you read all your life you will have a panoramic take of what life is all about.”

He received his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University, master’s degree from Arizona State University (ASU) and began his doctoral degree work at ASU; Maldonado is transferring to UW for completion.

Russell adds that meeting with Maldonado and Shakespeare was beneficial not only for the AIS staff, but for students to know that they have mentors from the reservation such as the two tribal liaisons.

“Speaking to our American Indian Studies students was just fantastic,” Russell says. “Our students were able to interact with the two liaisons to see what they do in terms of their role as the governor’s liaisons. It also gives them a chance to meet our students, and to see what we are doing here as a program and what we are working toward as a program.”

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