Alum uses anthropology, cultural background to improve opportunities for Native Americans

December 11, 2012

Richard Meyers, tribal relations director at South Dakota State University, recognizes and empathizes with the extreme poverty in his own backyard. Meyers, an enrolled Oglala Sioux (Lakota) tribal member with Irish ancestry, holds a beneficial perspective that is both outside and within the Native culture.

With master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology from ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, he seems qualified to profoundly understand the situation of American Indians, as well as how to potentially improve it. Richard Meyers Download Full Image

Meyers points out that several of the poorest communities in the nation are in South Dakota and are connected to Lakotas. It concerns him that American Indians on the whole are “lowest in terms of representation in higher education completion and highest in drop-outs.” As a result, few go on to careers in fields that can affect policies that impact their peoples.

With this knowledge in tow, Meyers felt indebted to his family to pursue a discipline that may help reconcile Native American ideals with government interests. Fittingly, the Lakota term for his position is iyeska, which roughly translates to “interpreter.”

In the past, Meyers was a ghostwriter in Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, known more commonly as the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. In that position, his goal was to not only edit the hundreds of government press releases on American Indian tribes, but also to communicate to the world the policies being contested.

One cause Meyers is championing is the increased representation of American Indians in D.C.

“As the U.S. dealt with tribal groups in its history of land grabbing, the tribal leaders who came to D.C. were often guided or manipulated or influenced by ‘lobbyists’ who saw their travel to D.C. as an opportunity for money,” he says.

With the current drop-out rate and underrepresentation in post-secondary education, there are relatively few native lawyers and lobbyists appealing for their tribes' rights, but Meyers believes that tide is turning.

“I think that through institutions of higher education, there will be new input into a lot of the politics that shape and influence ‘Indian Country,’” he says.

At some point in the near future, Meyers hopes to institute an American Indian Studies major at South Dakota State University to further propagate awareness and engagement. However, his true passion remains the study of anthropology, which he set his heart and mind on long ago.

After an undergraduate career at Amherst College, Meyers felt that ASU was just the environment he needed to equip him for his future in the field by melding his intimate liberal arts college experience with the opportunities of a large, top-tier university.

“Anthropology was the only discipline that allowed terms and writing to explain with clarity ‘cultural’ realities in a discourse that made sense to me,” he says. “I am an anthropologist first and foremost with a subject-matter expertise in Native North America more so than Native studies/American Indian studies. That means that from the human condition of tribal peoples across the globe to an economic analysis of late capitalism, I enjoy anthropology and its lens of viewing human beings.”

“It is interesting to invert the initial paradigm of anthropology and its associations to iconic Whitemen in khakis,” Meyers says.

Isaac Gilbert,
School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


ASU online voters select school's Super Commuter

December 11, 2012

After a months-long search for a new Super Commuter star, Parking and Transit Services (PTS) announced their 2013-2014 star, ASU student Victoria Macaluso.

Macaluso was voted by more than 100 participants on Facebook to be the Super Commuter, a representative of sustainable Sun Devils who choose to get to and from ASU by some other means than riding in a car alone. Download Full Image

Macaluso is a U-Pass holder and an avid user of the Valley Metro bus system. Her daily commute to the ASU Tempe campus starts in Chandler. Though the trip takes about 45 minutes, Macaluso says that she’s come to enjoy the trip.

“Thanks to making use of the light rail and bus, I feel I have inadvertently become a part of the Valley Metro family,” Macaluso said.

As the winner, she will star in upcoming ads and commercials. Runners-up in the Super Commuter campaign also will star in upcoming commercials.

The Super Commuter campaign started in September. All students, faculty and staff were encouraged to post their videos, photos and stories about their commute to ASU, as long as it didn’t simply involve riding in a car alone. Through the Super Commuter campaign, PTS sought to start a conversation and strengthen the community of Sun Devils who use sustainable transportation.

The winner was announced Dec. 5 at the PTS Super Commuter Awards event held at the Memorial Union on Tempe campus. Friends, fellow commuters and staff gathered to enjoy cookies, cocoa, cider and other treats as everyone met the Super Commuter finalists.

During the awards, Macaluso was accompanied by her family and friends, the same voters that helped her win the Super Commuter vote. To check out Macaluso’s submission, watch her video on the Parking and Transit Services YouTube channel “ASU Transit,” or click here.

Macaluso has been utilizing the public transit system for three years and says it has been an adventure the entire time, as she has met many interesting people and gained tons of memories. She said the main benefits of her daily route involve “saving money, viewing the beautiful world, and being able to sleep or do homework on the 45-minute ride.”

“The best part of riding the bus is that even though I feel that I am benefiting immensely from this opportunity, the world is benefitting from the decrease in my carbon footprint,” she said.

Macaluso is a perfect example of how every student and faculty staff member can use sustainable modes of transportation to work, school and everyday activities.