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Former Native rights attorney headlines “Elder In Residence” event at School of Social Work

Former native rights attorney Elder W. Richard West Jr. visited with Clinical Assistant Professor April Parker’s “Cultural Sensitivity: Ways of Knowing, Being, Healing and Honoring Youth and Their Families” class on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 5:30 p.m. to share his life story, answer questions and discuss the importance of cultural humility.

“Having Elder Rick West Jr. visit my class was such a special gift and I think all of us will reflect on his authenticity and humble way of being for years to come,” Parker said. “When he was speaking to a student’s 11-year-old son about being an attorney representing American Indian communities on cultural, educational, legal, and governmental matters, it was so beautiful to see how he centered the child’s interest, positioned his body to show the child he was the center of his attention and explained his advocacy work in a way an 11-year-old could understand. In that moment he was modeling exactly what I hope my course is teaching our students about engaging with children and families. Elder West has made significant contributions to the field of cultural understanding and representation. We could feel his passion when he shared the vision he had for making the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) mission and approach about interpreting Native American cultures from the perspectives of Native peoples themselves, emphasizing their rich heritage, art, and history.”