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An important part of WVU’s Native American Studies Program is the tradition of bringing distinguished Native American leaders to campus to lecture and interact with our students and fellow community members (see below, “Legacy of Distinction”).

Spring 2024 Elder-in-Residence

Jean Whitehorse wears her long grey hair in thick braids and has long beaded earrings.

Jean Whitehorse (Navajo Nation) shares her perspectives as a Native American rights activist and in particular, as one of the thousands of Native American who were sterilized without consent at U.S. Indian Health Service facilities. She is one of the key figures in the moving documentary film Amá, to be shown on Wednesday, April 10th, 2024 as part of the Spring Human Rights Film Series.

The daughter of a Navajo code talker, Ms. Whitehorse attended government boarding schools, was part of the U.S. government's Indian Urban Relocation program, was active in the Civil Rights/Native Rights movement, including the Alcatraz Island occupation, and worked for New Mexico’s State Tribal Library Program for over 26 years before retiring.

As Elder-in-Residence, Ms. Whitehorse will be on campus the second week in April for classroom discussions, faculty dialogues, and to engage with Health Sciences graduate students. This is a rare opportunity for our university and local community members to learn directly from a Navajo Nation elder. 


In the past several years, with generous support from the Carolyn Reyer Endowment for Native American Studies, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, and others, the NAS program has flourished with the participation of these outstanding individuals:

  • 2024 Jean Whitehorse (Navajo Nation), "Amá - the Navajo Word for Mother"
  • 2022 Joy Harjo (Muscogee, Creek Nation) "An Evening with U.S. Poet Laureate joy Harjo"
  • 2019 William Gollnick (Oneida Nation) "Traveling the Red Roads: Defining the Map"
  • 2018 Margaret Pearce, Ph.D. (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) Cartographer, Visiting Scholar presentation: “Imagination, Memory, and Engagement: Expressing Indigenous Geographies with Cartographic Language”  
  • 2017 David Archambault, II, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman, "Standing with Standing Rock: Why Justice Looks Different in Indian Country"
  • 2016 Ada Deer (Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin), former Assistant Secretary of the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, former Menominee Chair, social worker, activist, "From Reservation Cabin to the Corridors of Power: Changing our World from Within"
  • 2015 Charlie Soap (Cherokee Nation) filmmaker, photographer, community organizer, "The Cherokee Word for Water"
  • 2014 (Writer-in-Residence) Diane Glancy, author, filmmaker, playright, "The Dream of a Broken Field"
  • 2013 Walter Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), tribal Supreme Court Judge, Native American Rights Attorney, and author of  In the Courts of the Conqueror: The Ten Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided, and In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • 2011 Gerard Baker (Mandan, Hidatsa), his lecture, “From Log House to Rushmore,” told story of his rise through the ranks of the National Parks Service and his role as Superintendent of Mt. Rushmore National Monument, as well as Little Bighorn National Battlefield and other important Native American historic sites.
  • 2010 Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne, Hodulgee Muscogee), Native Rights Advocate, writer, poet, artist and curator…Director of the Morningstar Institute, "Protecting and Respecting our Ancestors: the Making of the National Museum of the American Indian"
  • 2009 Leader-in-Residence Tex Hall (Mandan, Hidatsa), former president of the National Congress of American Indians, served multiple terms as Chair of the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation, "Today in Indian Country"
  • 2008 Leslie Marmom Silko (Laguna Pueblo), award-winning author of such works as  The Man to Send Rain Clouds, Laguna Woman, Ceremony, Almanac of the Dead, Gardens in the Dunes, Ocean Story _(a novella)and her memoir, The Turquoise Ledge._
  • 2007 John EchoHawk (Pawnee), Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, addressed the Cobell case and other important legal issues facing Native Americans.
  • 2006 Dr. Henrietta Mann, Ph.D. ( Cheyenne), public lecture, “Is Nothing Sacred? Native American Views on Reverence and Connection”
  • 2005 Chief Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan, Onondaga Nation, Haudenosaunee, Six Nations – Iroquois Confederacy, public lecture, “Cowboys and Indians: Will it Ever End? Ask Mother Earth”
  • 2004 LaDonna Harris, (Comanche), public lecture, “Indigeneity: Indigenous Leadership in the Face of Global Change”
  • 2003 Peterson Zah, former Chairman and Tribal President of the Navajo Nation, public lecture, “Winds of Change in Indian Country”
  • 2002 Angaangaq Lyberth, (Inuk), public lecture, “Melting the Ice in the Heart of Man”