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Native American exhibit program discusses historical perspectives

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Sinclair Portis

Staff Writer

The Troy University library is holding its display and event focusing on Native American culture in early American history.

As part of the Native Voices exhibit on display in the library until Nov. 21, a presentation called “Many Paths and Common Grounds: Exchanging Medical Knowledge in the 17th and 18th Centuries,” was held on Wednesday, Oct. 25.

Karen Ross, an associate professor of history, and Tim Buckner, an associate professor of history, discussed the relationship between Native Americans and English colonists.

“We kind of talked about some things we were interested in, some things that we study and how we would be able to contribute to this,” Buckner said. “Since I do early American stuff and Dr. Ross does medicine, we just kind of put those two things together.”

Buckner gave a brief presentation on the history, culture and exchanges between the European settlers and Native Americans, including education on the diseases of the Columbian Exchange (where  tangible and intangible goods were exchanged between the Old and New Worlds) and the effects they have on those involved.

He said when one thinks of history, it is not typically associated with medicine or with Native Americans, but that there is more of an exchange between both groups than one might first realize.                                                    

Ross proceeded to further describe the medicinal part of the history.

She gave specific examples of the medical knowledge from perspectives of both the colonists and the Native Americans. Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz, author of “History of Louisiana,” detailed his personal experience with Native American physicians. Ross also mentioned the Cherokee, a Native American tribe, who went to the settlers for help with certain diseases such as smallpox.

Both professors addresssed stereotypical views regarding Native Americans and their culture.

Buckner explained that this was his and Ross’ only presentation, but he is excited for the events to come.

Tyeler Rayburn, a senior pre-medical major from Brantley, said he enjoyed the 45-minute presentation, and he said he wished it was longer so he would be able to learn more.

“I thought it was too short,” Rayburn said. “I think we could’ve stayed here for a while and listen to some more cool stuff.”

Rayburn attended the event for more knowledge on medical history.

“I thought it was really well done and pretty informative,” Rayburn said. “So it definitely gave me, I guess, a new perspective about the exchange of medical knowledge and how it was a two-way thing rather than just Europeans imposing their ideas and what-not upon them (Native Americans).”

Rayburn said he would attend another event like this and said he wished that Troy University held more events like it year-round.

The library funded this program through a grant it received.

Jeff Simpson, head librarian of reference at Troy University, explained that the display with six banners and six kiosk stands with tablets, located at the back of the main library lobby, is the main part of the grant, but the programs area part of it is as well.

The current display in the library gives an account from today’s Native American people and information of different known tribes and their medical practices.

“We saw the program as a good way for outreach,” Simpson said. “The library is always looking for opportunities for outreach.”

Simpson says there are more presentations to come with the overall theme being Native American culture, but will vary in subjects such as medicine and food health. They are also working on a program that will bring in local elementary schools for interactive exhibits.

“Librarians, we’re also interested in information and information literacy,” Simpson said. “Part of that is to provide types of information that make them aware there’s this type of thing out there and expose them to it and maybe show them a way to come back and do further research.”

Simpson said the library staff is happy with the attendance of the events and participation with the display and hopes to see more people show interest.