New book on American Indian history offers lesson in resilience

October 31, 2013

As much as the American Indian narrative is about tragedy, it is equally a story of strength and resilience.

“Indian Resilience and Rebuilding: Indigenous Nations in the Modern American West,” by ASU Distinguished Professor of History Donald Fixico (Shawnee, Sac & Fox, Muscogee Creek and Seminole) examines this phenomenon in his latest book, published by the University of Arizona Press. Indian Resilience and Rebuilding: Indigenous Nations in the Modern American West Download Full Image

Looking at Indian life through struggles faced when reservations were established, through boarding school education and the move to bring American Indians into cities, among other events, brings the reader through experiences that were oftentimes traumatic, but also offered opportunities through adversity.

“The boarding schools were something so negative,” Fixico said. “As Indians overcame tyranny, they overcame the most negative part of this experience and made it a positive as they saw the value in education.”

It’s a pattern that has continued as American Indians have extrapolated tools from their experiences that have enabled rebuilding. Inspiration for Fixico’s 13th book stems from an experience where he watched an armored truck drive away from a casino on the Gila Indian Reservation. He was struck by the irony of the situation that was reversed 100 years ago when a government wagon would have been bringing in treaty-promised supplies to help Native people.

“The book is really about that turnaround,” he said.

It’s a dramatic shift from the late 1800s when there were only 237,000 Indians in the United States compared to the 5 million that lived there before European settlement began.

“That’s almost ethnic genocide,” Fixico said. “There were 1,600 wars and skirmishes that decimated the Indian population.”  

From those dark days, rebuilding is examined through the eras of activism, natural resource development, Indian gaming, sacred land return and repatriation.  

“Native people have reinvented themselves. They take the tools that have been used to repress them and utilize mainstream capitalism and education while retaining the old ways,” he said.

Seminal turning points in American Indian history include activism that took off during the 1960s and 70s in the era of Vietnam protests, when Indians began calling for recognition of treaty rights, among other issues.

“It was a very pivotal historical moment. Native people became more proactive rather than reactive,” Fixico said.

Among politicians who worked for change for American Indians during the era was President Richard Nixon, whose administration laid the foundation for Indian self determination where American Indians began to decide their own destinies.

“He listened to American Indian concerns. Nixon came from a poor background. He may have very well have identified with Indian people,” Fixico said. President Jimmy Carter was also instrumental with the passage of the Indian Religious Freedom Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act, both of 1978, during his administration.

Repatriation and sacred land return is another important issue that is addressed as a question of morality. “While people respect their own cemeteries and cultural artifacts, Indian graveyards and artifacts have been grossly desecrated,” Fixico writes. 

“Native people don’t want to be disconnected from their past and families. When people take artifacts and human remains, it means disconnecting those individuals who pass away from their people and their community. To take them out of their circle means that you are being severed and you are being exiled. That is the worst thing for Indian people,” he said.

Natural resources development and Indian gaming have provided economic gain for many tribal nations in recent years. Indian gaming was initially started by the Seminoles in 1979.

“Indian gaming exploded in the 80s,” he said. “It’s the rise of Indian entrepreneurship.”

Ultimately the book is indicative of the cover photo of a man and boy walking on a dirt road toward the horizon and symbolically entering the future of Indian nations. Tools that they’re using include education, cultural navigation, indigenous leadership and an indigenous economy.

“We don’t know what the future holds. It’s coming from a very colonized past. The journey is about optimism, but it has been a very long road at the same time,” Fixico said. “If you have resilience, you can survive. When people are better equipped and you’ve developed your culture, education and skills, then you can rebuild. It’s a lesson for all communities and all people.”

Student startup helps athletes minimize risk of head injuries

October 31, 2013

When Arizona State University graduate student Anthony Gonzales suffered a concussion during a multiplayer collision at a collegiate rugby game, he didn’t have any typical concussion symptoms. With no idea that he had just sustained a serious head injury, he attempted to keep playing.

Fortunately for Gonzales, a trained EMT who saw the collision recognized the possibility of concussion and intervened, recommending that he remain on the bench. Had Gonzales stayed in the game and absorbed another blow to the head, the damage to his brain could have been significant. Force Impact Technologies logo Download Full Image

Determined to help other athletes minimize the risk of head injuries, Gonzales and ASU alumnus Bob Merriman founded Force Impact Technologies (FIT) earlier this year. And thanks to the company’s innovative new FIT Guard, athletes, coaches and trainers now have an effective tool to help assess whether a player has sustained a head injury.

The FIT Guard, which embeds force-detection technology into a mouth guard, is already garnering international attention for the company: FIT has been selected as one of 50 finalists in the Global Entrepreneurship Week Startup Open, a global competition that recognizes the top startup companies founded in the last year. The 50 finalists have been deemed as the most promising ventures from around the world based on a range of criteria that includes strength of concept, growth projections and knowledge of the market. Startup Open winners will be announced during Global Entrepreneurship Week, which takes place Nov. 18-24.

The FIT Guard works by measuring the force of an impact and illuminating when the force exceeds a set threshold, providing a visual indicator of the level of force. Different colors are used to indicate different levels of force, each color correlating with the probability that the player suffered a concussion based on reasonable concussion proximities derived from clinical research. The device, which uses an accelerometer and a gyroscope to measure acceleration, has been proven to have a high level of accuracy in measuring force.

“Our goal is to minimize the risk associated with players continuing to play after suffering an undetected concussion,” said Gonzales, an MBA student in ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business. “Ultimately, this will help reduce the long-term health effects associated with repeated head trauma.”

The FIT Guard’s emergence comes amid growing awareness of the dangers of repetitive brain injuries in contact sports, particularly among young athletes. A study issued Oct. 30 by the Committee of Sports-Related Concussions in Youth reported that there is a “culture of resistance” when it comes to self-reporting of concussion symptoms by young athletes, who are reluctant to let down teammates, coaches and parents. The FIT Guard gives coaches and trainers an effective way to objectively evaluate the possibility of concussion, rather than relying on athletes to report their own symptoms.   

FIT is one of nearly 30 student startups in ASU’s Great Little Companies Network. The campus-based program, which is managed by ASU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, supports up to 30 startups each year, providing $3,000 each in grant funding, as well as direct mentoring through the Changemaker Central locations on each of ASU’s four campuses. ASU also fosters student entrepreneurship through the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, which provides support to an additional 20 startups.

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, launched in October 2010 as ASU Venture Catalyst, is a joint initiative between the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development and Arizona Technology Enterprises. Originally created to accelerate high-potential startup companies, the unit has grown to encompass not just startup acceleration, but a broad range of entrepreneurship-related activities across the university, the metro area and the state.